Archive for May, 2017

Illustrations of Our Lives

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

A few weekends ago my sister and mother were analyzing children’s books. They were deciphering which books would be appropriate for my nephew to begin reading. I was zero help—I have no comprehension whatsoever of what a child, who’s never read before, should be able to read. When my nephew is of high school or college age, apparently then my recommendations will be age-appropriate…

As my sister and mom flipped through pages, my eye caught a fabulously illustrated book. I’ve always been a sucker for art, and this book was definitely a masterpiece in my book (pun intended).

As a child, I remember my favorite books had beautiful illustrations—ones that could hold my attention for hours. I especially loved the ones that filled an entire page. The adjacent page could have paragraphs of text, but my eyes would devour every detail of the drawing as my mom read the story aloud.

Wordy books, accompanied by an illustration that didn’t have much detail, was too small in scale, or lacked color, were torture to read. Okay—maybe this is an exaggeration, but I couldn’t wait for the page turn to see something new, fresh, and more exciting. I would never voluntarily select such a text to hear at bedtime because the images were boring, mindless, slightly agitating, and a bit frustrating.

Now, I’m not reading books with gorgeous illustrations. I love to read, but the onslaught of life keeps me too busy to settle down with a stack of books my teenage self would have consumed in a day. However, the illustrations capturing my attention today are the ones on the pages of my life. There are times I find my life’s illustrations are boring, monochromatic, and I’m itching to turn the page.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time… (Ecclesiastes 3:11, KJV).

Can I be honest for a moment? Sometimes I feel like the plans God has in store for me for today, and maybe even the future, are boring. I want to do so much more for God. I want the illustrations in my life to always be ornate, intricate, vibrant, and lively. I’ll stare at a picture on a page in my life, and I’m done looking at it in five seconds and ready to see the better one on the next page.

I’m not writing to tell you I’m unhappy with my life or the plans God has for me. I think we all truthfully face this at one point in our walk with God. But, there is a lesson in the illustrations here that goes beyond the page.

I’ve learned when I’m stuck on a specific page, it’s because God’s ordained it. I’m a speed reader in real-life, but in my spiritual life, God slows my reading-pace drastically. There are some things on each page of my life He wants to make sure I understand before I turn to the next page.

Some illustrations may seem boring to me, but they’re the start of a beautiful illustration in His book. While I’m impatient to turn the page, God’s getting ready to add more to the picture—to fill in the details, to add in the colors, and to draw an additional scene I haven’t yet anticipated. I’d miss it all if I turned the page too soon.

I’ve learned—and am still learning—that I need to slow down and appreciate what God has drawn into my life. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like the drawing. Maybe the illustrations aren’t beautiful by my own standards, or they aren’t attractive to start. But, God will reveal their beauty in His time. Their detail will come according to His plan for my life.

The same is for you, dear reader. If you think the stick-figure drawing on my page is a one-of-a-kind, guess again. I’m sure you have a few of those on the pages of your life, or maybe you’re looking at your illustrations with the same pair of glasses I have on.

Remember the beautiful illustration is coming. Don’t get frustrated with where you are in your life’s story. There’s a reason for the simple drawing. Don’t turn the page to your life just yet.

The Work of My Wall: Part III

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work (Nehemiah 2:17–18, KJV).

Recap

Last week, we continued our discussion on additional ways to build our spiritual walls. This week, we end with the last two aspects of this effort.

9 Ways to Build Our Spiritual Walls

There are 9 ways to build our spiritual walls. Last week, we discussed discipleship, strong families, fellowship, and worship.

8—Personal Servanthood

God did not save us just to sit. We are saved to serve in His Kingdom and to complete good works (Ephesians 2:10). Our spiritual walk is dictated by our faith, and our faith in action will bring us to a place of servanthood (James 2:22). Jesus embodied the form of a servant, and we need to follow in His footsteps. We should have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5)! When we serve in God’s Kingdom, we realize it’s Him we’re ultimately serving, not anyone else. When servanthood doesn’t build our spiritual wall, our focus is not on Jesus Christ.

Jesus taught and expects us to serve in His Kingdom (Matthew 20:25–28; 25:14). The Kingdom is not ours, but if we pour into it, God will pour into us. We can’t be full of God’s Spirit and not do anything with it. The Apostles set out to seek 7 men, full of the Holy Ghost, to help minister to the church (Acts 6:1–3). Because they had the Holy Ghost, they knew there was a place they could serve in the Kingdom, and they did it! We don’t always need someone to come to us to help serve. God will give us the ability to recognize a need, and fill a gap.

9—Evangelism

Evangelism is one of the strongest ways to reinforce our faith and to help build our spiritual wall. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost in this world (Luke 19:10), and we are called to do the same. God has intentionally placed each of us in an environment for us to be the most effective in our witness. There are people we can reach successfully that no one else can. We must evangelize!

Evangelism reaffirms what we believe because we’re constantly in the Word of God. Repetition of the Word will help to secure it in our own hearts and remind us of what God has promised (II Peter 1:13). It also helps to revalidate our experience in God because we know God is still pouring out His Spirit on people and changing lives. He is longsuffering so that no one will perish (II Peter 3:9).

We are all commissioned to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). One of the most effective ways to evangelize and disciple will be to the people we are close to—our family and friends. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, she was so impacted by her encounter with Jesus, she went off to tell everyone she knew (John 4:29). It was because of her witness people believed (John 4:39). We need to spend time with people around us that don’t know Jesus; people that aren’t like us, and befriend them. We will be sustained and nourished doing the work of our Father (John 4:34). It’s time to get out into that harvest and build our spiritual wall.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 24, 2017 with Pastor Nave

Left-Handed Lessons

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

It’s the age old story of boy meets girl—boy and girl fall in love, get married, and spend the rest of their lives knocking elbows with one another… Not you? Okay, then it’s just those of us who fall in love and marry someone who’s left-handed.

Oh, the stories I could tell of all the times my husband and I have walloped each other’s elbows—me a righty and him a lefty. We have frequent elbow wars when cooking at the stove, eating meals, painting, brushing our teeth, writing, drinking water… Think about anything you could possibly do with your dominant hand, and just imagine how you could become entangled with someone else doing the same action, but the exact opposite way. Whatever you’ve come up with in your mind, I promise you, my husband and I have been there.

After spilled drinks, repeated bumps on my forehead, and serious thought to investing in erasers, I’ve come to a few conclusions. We live in a world dominated by right-handed people. And, therefore, most everything is made for a right-handed person. While my husband’s left-handedness is the cause of some agitation in my life, I’m amazed at what he’s able to do in a right-handed world.

It takes great skill and ability to live in a right-handed world, as much as I hate to admit it. So, I’m convinced being a lefty is a special calling by God. If you think I’m kidding, I challenge you to try and use any household item with your left hand and see if you don’t cut, or seriously maim yourself using it.

Just so you know, this “left-handed theory” isn’t one I’ve devised by my lonesome.

In Scripture, the children of Israel were in bondage under the rulership of King Eglon. They cried out to God, and he rose up a deliverer named Ehud, a left-handed man. Ehud crafted a dagger to assassinate the king and hid it under his right thigh. When he entered the palace, the king’s guards checked him for weapons, but didn’t find any. Why? Because most people of the day were right-handed, and would have hid any weaponry under their left thigh. The story ends with Ehud killing the king and escaping undetected (Judges 3:15–23).

So, you might be asking yourself, “What’s so special about this left-handed guy?” Ehud had a special calling, and was created intentionally by God for a specific purpose. And, to fulfill that purpose, he had to be left-handed. No one other than Ehud would have been able to do what he was able to do.

So you see, my left-handed theory is in the Bible, but maybe not exactly the way you think…

Am I saying that only left-handed people are special and have a specific calling—i.e., my husband versus boring, old, right-handed me? Even though he is pretty awesome, and has a “Mr. Awesome” t-shirt to prove it, this isn’t the case.

Left-handedness is a specific trait, a characteristic that some people have in the world. It’s unique, just as are other aspects of who we are. God created each of us differently with our own callings, anointing, and abilities. It is with those different specialties (physical characteristics or otherwise) that God calls us to complete a unique work in His kingdom. And, it might be a work that no one else but us can do.

Living with a different characteristic from everyone may seem strange. This may be more apparent to the 12% of lefties that make up the entire world’s population. But, God has created us the way we are for a purpose. There may be things we’re called to do for His kingdom that no one—or few others—can accomplish in life. And, instead of getting frustrated with our differences, we should celebrate them.

You might not be a leftie, but you have a special characteristic or ability in your life God created you with for a specific purpose. It might look like a character flaw, seem a little complicated, or make you feel out of place sometimes, but it’s there for a reason. When put to the right use in God’s kingdom, it’s perfect—it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it.

And, when other people realize what you’ve got at your disposal, they might just buy you your own “awesome” t-shirt.

(Un)Expected

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not (Matthew 25:1–12, KJV).

Each of us have certain expectations in life—things we strongly believe will happen. But, there’s a risk we take when we expect life to pan out a certain way. When we don’t prepare, when we don’t expect for the unexpected, we will miss critical opportunities and blessings from God.

Of the 10 virgins in Scripture, 5 took oil for their lamps and assumed they didn’t need any more. There is a blessing in being prepared—in expecting the unexpected. We must take the time to be prepared. In the onslaught of daily life, we have many activities that occupy our time. Our excuse in taking the time to prepare is our lack of time. But, we shouldn’t be too busy to get the oil for our journey. In our walk with God, this oil is the Holy Ghost.

We must reprioritize our life and determine if we want to make heaven our home, we must prepare and store up extra oil for our journey. If we don’t focus on the Lord, God will place things in our life to “inconvenience us,” so we can focus on the right things—our relationship with Him.

Life is unexpected—we can’t plan for everything. But, when the unplanned situations arise, we must trust the Lord. God has promised to endue us with the strength and the power to endure every trial. That power, anointing, strength, and peace all comes from the oil of the Holy Ghost.

There’s so many aspects to our relationship with God that go beyond the exterior. We should have an intimate relationship with Him so He can order our steps in accordance with His plan (Psalms 37:23). If we are going to have enough oil in our lamps, we may have to harvest it out of circumstances we find uncomfortable.

For the 10 virgins, at one point, all of their lamps were lit. But, somewhere during the night, 5 lamps went out. We need to keep the oil in our lamps; we need to prepare for the (un)expected. The lack of oil in our life isn’t because the Lord has withheld it (Isaiah 59:1). He supplies it, but we have to seek after it.

The Work of My Wall: Part II

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work (Nehemiah 2:17–18, KJV).

Recap

Last week, we learned about how walls were of great significance during Biblical history. Today, that same significance has translated to our spiritual walk with God. City walls provided boundaries, identity, protection, and connect people together. Our spiritual walls function the same way in our walk with God—setting boundaries for us, providing identity and protection in God, and connecting us with our Savior and the body of Christ.

9 Ways to Build Our Spiritual Walls

There are 9 ways to build our spiritual walls. Last week, we discussed praying, reading the Word, and fasting.

4—Discipleship

In the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, we find different types of people: 1) those who followed Jesus from a distance—the Roman government, Pharisees, etc.; 2) those who followed Jesus in the masses—people who were among the “multitudes” Jesus spoke to; and 3) those who followed Jesus closely—the disciples.

A disciple is a learner, and lives from the teachings of Jesus. There is a difference in just learning the teachings and living the teaching. It’s easy to enter into a relationship with Jesus through our initial salvation (repentance, baptism in Jesus name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost). But, the work in following Jesus is discipleship.

We’re told in Scripture to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). There’s an inward call to submit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, and it’s a lifelong commitment. We must die out to ourselves (self-denial) and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Our goal as a follower of Christ is to be like Him in every part of our lives (Romans 8:29). We must be transformed and conformed to His image (Romans 12:2).

Knowledge is the first step in the process of discipleship, and this knowledge/understanding must come from the Word of God. We must have a Biblical decision-making process in our walk with God that:

  • Considers the Choice—We need to know it’s God who dictates what’s right and wrong, and we must apply these guideline to our decisions (Micah 6:8)
  • Compares to God’s Word—We must consult the Word to determine an answer for our present situation. There is an answer in His Word for everything! There are great Scriptures (e.g., Psalms 119:30–37) we can pray over our decisions
  • Chooses the Biblical Way—Christians know what they should do, but then do the wrong thing. We must make a commitment to follow the steps outlined in Scripture (Psalms 25:12)
  • Counts on God for Protection and Provision—Our faith must assure us God will protect and provide for us. We can give ownership of every problem to Him and receive the blessings He has in store for us (Deuteronomy 28:2)

Our spiritual walls needs to be built on a lifestyle of following Christ. The wall isn’t going to stay strong without spiritual discipline, maintenance, and by making good decisions in how to care for it according to God’s knowledge.

5—Strong Families

There is a reason why God instructed His people to teach their children about Him and His Word. The Jews who truly followed the Lord were able to sustain their core doctrine/beliefs through bondage, captivity, and terrible circumstances over thousands of years because of what God instituted through Moses—the instruction to teach their children the ways of the Lord. They invested hours of spiritual instruction into their children to help the truth find a lodging place in their hearts.

In the New Testament, we see evidence of strong families in Ephesians when husbands are admonished to love their wives, wives to honor their husbands, fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, and children to honor their parents. When our families aren’t strong or abide by God’s ordained structure, spiritual attack will crop up in our lives. When there is a lack of spirituality in the home, nothing but dysfunction can occur.

We need to get smart about how we invest ourselves in the relationships with our families (I Peter 3:7). If we don’t maintain a strong family, there will be areas in our spiritual life that will be hindered. The church is only as strong as the families inside of the church. And, our families are only as strong as the individuals. Our spiritual wall is dependent on our strong families.

6—Fellowship

Fellowship is an element that goes deeper than community. It’s a spiritual connection only found in God’s kingdom. A wall isn’t a wall unless it connects with something else. In the early church, right after the birth of the institution, the people continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship (Acts 2:42). We need to have fellowship with the brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s one of the strongest things we can do to help build our spiritual walls (John 1:7; Hebrews 10:24–25). We’ve got to stay connected to each other even outside of the normal church services and encourage one another to stay strong in the faith. Our mission should be to connect with other people.

7—Worship

Worship is the mortar that makes up our spiritual wall. Worship will bring and evoke the presence of God in our life and in our churches—God is truly what holds the Kingdom and His people together! Scripture tells us God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3), so we must seek to offer Him praise and worship every day of our walk with Him. His very presence brings power, promise, and cohesiveness in the church. We’re not going to have a strong spiritual wall without worship.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 17, 2017 with Pastor Nave

You Don’t Need a Spoon Full of Medicine

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

When my sister was younger, she had a Fisher-Price doctor’s kit. My parents have home videos of her attending to her “patients” in the basement of our home—a teddy bear with a splinted leg, a pink rabbit with a fever, and a new patient (my father) recently admitted to her ward.

Film captured my sister’s caregiver eccentricities, and limited diagnostic skills, while trying to help my “wounded” father. After clocking my father in the shin with a tiny plastic mallet, trying to force a child-size wrist band aid upon him—pulling a few precious arm hairs—and jamming a plastic thermometer under his arm, my dad’s “owes” echoed in the air.

With a concerned look in her eye about her seemingly terminal patient, she cooed, “Don’t be scared, I’ll be right back.” She took off to the other side of the basement, whipped out an empty cinnamon spice container, and returned with a critical dose of “medicine” for her precious patient. “Here, take this,” she said. “You’ll be better soon.”

From the time we’re young, we’re trained through toys, advertisements, and general practice to seek the help of doctors for our ailments and various medicines for cures. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction for most of us—grabbing the Tylenol for a headache and heading to the doctor when we’re sick.

There are even examples of people in Scripture who had issues in their body and sought physicians immediately. Asa sought a doctor for his diseased feet (II Chronicles 16:2), and a woman with an issue of blood solicited the care of physicians for 12 years, all of whom were unable to help her (Mark 5:25). Getting medical help is common—it’s what people do.

A Sister came to our church a few years back and preached how we forget who God is. Scripture tells us He is a healer and is our Great Physician (Psalms 103:3). But, with the God of all the universe at our disposal, we don’t go to Him when we need a healing. Instead of trying God first, we use Him as a last resort, or sometimes don’t seek Him at all.

Asa never sought the Lord for a healing and died with his disease being “exceedingly great.” He could have lived to reign over Israel for many more years; history could have been written much differently if He had taken his need to the true Healer.

Humankind tried to help to woman with the issue for blood. And, she kept going back to them for 12, long years of her life. But, the moment she sought the Lord, she received an immediate healing.

Some of us live each day with a condition that requires us to take medication and see doctors about on a continual basis. It may be because we’ve never asked the Lord to heal us. We’ve put our trust in man instead. There are also some of us who would have been healed years ago if we went to God with our ailment first instead of trying everything else.

Have we all given God an opportunity to work in our lives? Have we given Him the opportunity to work, first? I extend the same challenge to you, which this dear sister shared with our church: the next time you have a headache, don’t reach for the Tylenol. The next time you’ve got high blood pressure, don’t run to the hospital. Don’t grab that spoon full of medicine.

Pray first and take your need to the greatest Healer this world has ever known. He won’t need to take time to diagnose the issue, try a few care methods, or have to leave you. He’ll prescribe a dose of His presence that I promise will work every time.

When All I’ve Got is All I Need

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest (II Kings 4:1–7, KJV).

II Kings 4 speaks of a certain woman. A time ago, this certain woman was the wife of a son of the prophets. There was an element of prestige to their manner of living. However, her husband died and left her with a sizable amount of debt. A creditor came knocking on her door, and was prepared to exercise his right to take her sons as indentured servants to work of the incurred debt.

As a mother in a desperate state, she goes to the man of God for help. The prophet Elisha asked her what she had in her house. And, her response? Nothing but a pot of oil.

The olive tree was the most abundant tree in the Mediterranean, and its oil has chief value. All throughout Scriptures, we see evidence of the many uses of oil in cooking, lighting lamps, making soap, religious ceremonies, weaponry (once heated), and in anointing oil.

While oil was of extreme value, the woman had little esteem for what she had in her life. In her circumstance, the woman failed to see that the oil in her home had the same value it always had. Her situation didn’t change its value; it was still worth something!

Elisha told the woman to get as many vessels as she could find, and to start pouring the oil. Because of her desperation for her sons, she obeyed the man of God. She shut all of her doors. She had to keep out the world and any element of disbelief. Then, she began the work of pouring the oil.

Once the oil was poured, and every vessel filled, Elisha told her to sell the oil. She was to take what she had and ensure someone else got some of it. And, with the money she’d earn from selling the oil, she’d have enough money to pay off her debts and live on it the rest of her life. What she thought was irrelevant, turned out to be exactly what she needed.

God has placed treasures in His church that are meant for His children. These treasures have vast uses and are priceless to the church. Oil has great significance to the child of God. The oil poured on the heads of prophets to anoint them for ministry symbolized the presence of the Lord. The Holy Ghost—the oil of God’s anointing—was meant to saturate (endue) us with God’s presence and power.

There are too many of us today who think we need something else. The world looks like it can offer us much more than what we have, and we walk away from the oil of God’s presence. Today, we need to realize we have everything we’ll ever need in Jesus. God gave the riches of His glory to the saints (Ephesians 1:18).

We cannot discount what God has already given us. When we stand on and value what He’s given us, we will see how it will always meet our every need. The hour has come where we cannot stand idly by and watch the enemy of our souls take victory. We still have oil and we still have His name! It’s time to start revival with what we have. It’s time to take victory with what we have. Because what we have is all we need!

The Work of My Wall: Part I

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work (Nehemiah 2:17–18, KJV).

Background

Nehemiah was one of the “good figs” carried away during the Babylon captivity. Even though he had lived away from his homeland for years, his Jewish history and culture were very much a part of him. He received word that Jerusalem had been destroyed and was gravely distressed. He sought the audience of the king and was given charge to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls.

What Walls Provided

Walls were very important during Biblical times. Walls set boundaries. Years ago, there wasn’t a good map system. Boundaries were typically unknown unless a wall was established to identify the perimeter of the city. In order for the city to define its limits, walls were constructed.

Walls provided identity. Typically, the larger the wall, the greater the city. We see evidence of this in Scripture when reading about the walls of Jericho. Jericho’s walls were known to be 32–41 feet high, about as tall as a 4-story building. The greatest boast to a city were its walls.

Walls provided protection. The larger, thicker, and more sturdy the walls, the better protection it provided for the inhabitants within the walls. Even when an army couldn’t protect a city, the walls provided the utmost protection for its residents.

Walls connected people together. It was significant to live inside the city walls as opposed to outside the city wall. Due to the boundaries provided, the walls ultimately created a sense of community for those living in close proximity to each other.

Spiritual Walls

Our spiritual wall is comprised of everything we do in relationship with God from now until He calls us home. We should have a genuine desire to build up the spiritual walls in our life. Many of us are in “spiritual maintenance mode” and just want to keep the status quo in our relationship with God. But, God wants us to stay strong in our walk with up and rise up and build—to strengthen our hands for this good work. We cannot get too focused on making our lives better on earth and not focus on our spiritual lives (Proverbs 25:28).

When Nehemiah showed up in Jerusalem, he had a heart that changed the mindset of the people. For a city that had walls broken down for years, upon Nehemiah’s arrival, the walls were rebuilt in 52 days. Nehemiah encouraged the people to change from a “I should” mentality in regards to rebuilding to a “I will” mentality. We need to decide today that we will build our spiritual walls!

Purpose of Spiritual Walls

Spiritual walls in our lives function the same way physical walls did during Bible times. Spiritual walls set boundaries for us, provide identity and protection, and connect us with God and the body of Christ.

In Scripture, Nehemiah assigned each family to build a portion of the wall by their home. In a sense this is what we do in our walk with God. We need to take ownership of the spiritual wall in front of us—something that directly impacts our identity and relationship with God. And, we need to consider how the integrity of our portion of the “wall” will impact others in God’s kingdom if it isn’t strong. Our lack of attentiveness to the spiritual wall in our live can provide entrance into the church by the enemy. We all have a responsibility to build fortified spiritual walls for ourselves but for God’s people as well.

9 Ways to Build Our Spiritual Walls

1—Praying

Everyone should have a private time of prayer every day. We’re admonished in Scripture to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17)! Prayer is how we connect ourselves to God on a daily basis; it gives God an opportunity to speak into our lives and direct our steps. We should ask God about everything we do in life (Philippians 4:6). As we see in the life of Nehemiah, he prayed and then he acted (Nehemiah 1:11, 2:3). We need to do the same in our lives during our time our prayer—asking God for direction and then being responsible to take action. Realistically, we will not make it spiritually without prayer. We must pray to add bricks to our spiritual wall.

2—Reading Word

The Psalmist said he hid the Word of God in his heart so he wouldn’t sin against Him (Psalms 119:11). To hide the Word in our hearts means to remember it in our minds and apply it to our daily lives. If we are to remember the Word, we need to read it! But, reading isn’t enough: the Word of God needs to be integrated into our lives. We must spend time investing in reading the Bible and coupling it with our prayer time. We struggle a lot day to day because we don’t utilize the tools God has placed in our hands—His Word is a mighty tool at our disposal. Jesus said that man cannot live by bread alone, but every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). We are to live by every Word of God; this is what acts as our Counselor, directs our steps, and helps us build our wall.

3—Fasting

All throughout Scripture, we can see examples of mighty men and women who prayed and fasted (Joel 2:12; Daniel 9:3; Esther 4:16). Fasting crucifies the flesh while opening the soul; it kills off the fleshly man and helps us to be sensitive to what the Holy Ghost is trying to accomplish in our lives. Fasting also helps us to shift our dependence on Him instead of ourselves. Jesus told His disciples that there are some battles we will not win in this world unless we fast (Matthew 17:21). It’s important that we understand the power of fasting. It’s not just a diet: we’re replacing food and feeding the body with the spiritual feeding of the spirit. Fasting helps us to focus, refine, and re-fire the passion of God’s Spirit working in our lives—we hear His voice stronger! Fasting will help us build our wall by finding the weak spots and strengthening it with God.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 10, 2017 with Pastor Nave

A Mother’s Presence

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:25–30, KJV).

Years ago, I was in a testimony service. A young lady stood up and said, “I thank God my mother was there when I was born.” This statement generated many laughs from the congregation. No one was quite sure how her mother could have been absent during her birth; it was pretty much a guarantee she would have been present. But, this sister’s praise was genuine—she was very thankful her mother was there when she was born.

Years later, this statement, as humorous as it was, makes me think about how we assume the presence of our Mothers, or a Mother-like figure, in our lives is a guarantee. Their presence has become the everyday norm; we don’t think twice that these wonderful women could ever be absent from our lives.

I think back over my life and can see how my mother was always there. She was the one who got me ready for school in the morning, fixed my hair, and made my meals every day. She was the one who applied a cool, damp cloth to my head when I had a fever, bandaged up scrapes and cuts, and covered me with calamine lotion when I had the chicken pox.

She was the one who reattached Barbie doll heads, endlessly patched-up my favorite rag doll, and stepped on LEGOs in the middle of the night I left on the floor of my room. She painstakingly endured my early years in piano instruction, read me bedtime stories, and tolerated listening to my boring made-up ones. She was a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and a source of wisdom.

There’s so much I could say about my mother: she’s always been there—supporting, loving, and taking care of me, my sisters, and my dad in every way that she could. She was so constant, so faithful; someone we all truly took for granted; someone we didn’t and still don’t thank God for every day.

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and it’s a time we take to reflect on, show our appreciation for, and praise our Mothers, or Mother-like figures, in our lives. It’s the world’s way of reminding us to demonstrate our love at least once a year.

But, Scripture doesn’t quantify the frequency of praise we should give our Mothers or Mother-like figures. A Proverbs 31 woman says her children will rise up and call her blessed and her husband will praise her. Our Mothers exemplify a Proverbs 31 woman—and beyond—continuously, so we should praise them daily and multiple times a day!

I hope my Mother knows how thankful I am for her, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day that I live. I am incredibly blessed to have her in my life; I know it would be vastly different without her.

Let’s thank our Mothers, or Mother-like figures, for everything they’ve done for us. We’ll never know when we’ll get another opportunity. And, let’s also praise the Lord for the ministry of Motherhood. We should thank God our Mothers were there when we were born. We love you Mothers!

The Heart of Obedience

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:15–23, KJV).

There are three factors that govern human behavior: pain, pleasure, and reward. Our reactions are based on these elements; however, our actions have a tendency to move us farther and farther away from God. Instead of lending ourselves over to behavior driven by these factors, we should think about the final outcome before we react.

If we want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord and in accordance with His will, we must be obedient to Him—His Word and His Will. So, when it comes down to the crux of obedience, it’s all about surrender. Living for God isn’t about sacrifice, compliance, conformity, doing the right things, making people happy, or following the rules. It’s just about surrender.

Jesus came to the earth to demonstrate true obedience and surrender. He made Himself obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. It didn’t matter what He wanted. If we are God’s servants, we need to obey Him.

Jesus said our fruit will be the end result of our actions. We cannot get grapes or figs from thorns and thistles. Fruit is not going to be born from areas of our lives that God has delivered us from, or cut away from our lives. We must seek out a new relationship and pathway with God, and that relationship must be one of obedience unto Him. When we find that pathway, we’ll bear good fruit.

In Scripture, we read about 2 men named Saul. Saul of the New Testament martyred Christians because he felt they were heretics. But, on the road to Damascus, he had an encounter with Jesus that changed Him forever. He became the Apostle Paul from that moment. King Saul was instructed by the prophet Samuel to kill the king of Amalek and to destroy all of the livestock. But, Saul determined in his heart that it was better to allow the king to live and to keep the best of the livestock.

Both men received direction from God. Once they received revelation as to what God’s will was in the matter, Saul (now Paul) chose to change his behavior and obey the Lord. King Saul determine to pursue what was best in his own eyes. He rebelled against the Lord and was unwilling to surrender to the Lord.

We are all humans born into a world of sin. But, Jesus has come not just to change the branches on our tree so we don’t produce the same, spoiled fruit. He wants to change the type of tree that we are. He wants to get into our hearts and reshape our lives. This is only possible if we are willing to have a true heart of obedience. We must surrender all today.

Take Courage

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

“Do you think he’s in there?” my younger sister nervously questioned. “I don’t know, but why don’t you go in and check. I’ll be right behind you…”

That was the beginning of a familiar conversation my sister and I would share when engaged in a game of hide-and-seek with our father. We never played just any old game of hide-and-seek. It was always one we played in the dark.

When it was our dad’s turn to hide, there was one location of the house he favored more than the others: the basement—especially the utility room. And, for two little girls around the ages of three and four, the basement, the dark basement, was the most terrifying location of the house.

My sister and I were both pretty sure monsters lived in the utility room. Definitely, all the spiders in the basement originated from within. And, on a few occasions, we were convinced a robot resided there, but the evidence has never been secured to support such a theory…

Whatever the case, I do know that neither my sister nor I could muster up the courage to enter the utility room, in the dark, to search for our father. Our tiny feet were fastened by some imaginary glue to the basement floor. But, we’d become miraculously unstuck, and high-tail it back upstairs as soon as we heard my dad bellow his scary “bwah-ha-ha,” out of the deep, dark recesses of that utility room.

Courage—it’s a tricky thing to find when you’re scared, going against the grain, or facing a situation you’ve never encountered before. Courage typically manifests at the opportune time when you’re trying to impress someone, but that was the farthest thing from my mind when playing hide and seek. Survival of the fittest was my motto.

In life, we’ll be presented with countless opportunities requiring us to exemplify a bit of courage. And, I can guarantee you they’ll be much more difficult than stepping into a dark utility room. We’ll be presented with a choice to show courage or to run away.

In Scripture, when Asa became the king of Israel, the Nation was steeped in idolatrous worship. But, God told him to be strong in his work, be faithful to Him, and he would be rewarded (II Chronicles 15:7).

And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altars of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD (II Chronicles 15:8, KJV).

Asa was presented with a choice to change the entire culture/lifestyle of Israel. He could either follow his predecessors, go with the flow, and fail God, or take a stand and live for God. Asa chose to “take courage”—he established himself securely in the Lord and proceeded to destroy everything that displeased God.

Asa didn’t care what anyone else thought. He cast aside his own fears, relied on the courage the Lord provided, and destroyed the idols from the land.

When we seek God for help, He will give us a sure foundation to stand upon, the courage to move forward, and the strength to endure. Regardless of how we feel, or the pressures of the world around us, God will transform our minds. We’ll be able to do something in Him we never thought possible. He will provide the courage that we lack.

Whatever situation you’re facing today, if you lack courage, seek God first. When you get alone with Him, He will provide a Word of encouragement, and you will find yourself with the ability to “take courage,” just as Asa did to go up against your “dark utility room.” Whatever God gives you the courage to face, you will make it through as an overcomer.