Archive for July, 2018

Practical Holiness: Understanding Sin

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

A Basis of Holiness

The Christian’s journey in becoming like God is answering the call to holiness. Holiness means separated unto something or being set aside for something. For us, we’re separated to, and for, the Lord. God called us unto separation!

God created us in holiness (Ephesians 4:24). Therefore, we’re charged in Scripture to yield our bodies to serve righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:19). And, yielding ourselves to holiness is a true process; it doesn’t happen overnight. Holiness is our ultimate destination in life (Romans 6:22; II Corinthians 7:1).

What is Sin

To understand holiness, we must first understand sin. Sin, quite simply, is missing the mark or to be in error with God. Sin is both man’s nature and our inherited, irresistible urge to act in ways that miss God’s expectations for us. Our flesh will desire things that work against desires of the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). Our sinful nature is constantly at war with God’s Spirit; we need His Spirit to override the nature of sin.

Acts of Sin

When we break the law (in any capacity) we’ve committed a sin (I John 3:4). This happens from actions we take or don’t take (what we do or don’t do). Additionally, sin arises in our life when our conscious heeds us a warning something might be wrong, and we disregard any conviction and do it anyway (open rebellion) (Romans 14:23). God gives us personal convictions: we’re directed to abstain, we engage, and sin. Lastly, if we know to do good and don’t, this is sin (James 4:17).

Note, temptations in life are not sin. But, temptations can produce sin if we entertain the idea and/or if we yield to it.

Law of the Flesh

Everyone has sinned and come short of the glory of God (I Kings 8:46; II Chronicles 6:36; Psalms 51:1; Romans 3:23, 9–10). Sinful acts will always rise because of our sinful nature. Jesus shed His blood for us to pay the ultimate penalty for our sin (the wage being death). Even after our new birth experience (repentance, baptism in Jesus name, and infilling of the Holy Ghost), we still possess our sinful nature.

The law of the flesh is quite simple. Neither the law of God nor the law of the mind has the power to overcome sin in our life. Paul noted he wanted to do right, but he struggled against the sin living in him. Sin would error and walk against the Word of God (Romans 7:14–20). The only overcoming power of sin is found walking in the Spirit of the Living God (Galatians 5:16).

Law of the Spirit

In sum, left alone to ourselves, we’re going to sin. We will miss the expectations of God in our life. Only Jesus Christ, and His Spirit (the Holy Ghost), can override the lusts and works of the flesh in our life. The law of the Spirit, however, is a greater law in operation in our life! The Holy Ghost will always overcome the law of the flesh. It will give us power to live above sin until we reach the resurrection.

Overcoming Sin

While the Holy Ghost is our ticket to overcoming sin, we must take spiritual responsibility to rise above our nature. God won’t force us to live right and to abide in His Spirit. We must know who we are and what has happened to us—our body has been crucified so we don’t serve sin (Romans 6:6). We must die out to sin daily and act as if sin has no power over us by yielding to God (Romans 6:17). Lastly, we must take action to live above sin by repenting. We serve a God who is faithful and just to forgive us sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on July 25, 2018 with Pastor Nave

Gifts for Good or Gifts to Gods

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

I was a concert-trained pianist for most of my childhood, pre-teen, and teenage years. Between teachers, parental coaching, and God’s blessing, I had a fair musical aptitude. While God had created me with a musical gifting, piano playing didn’t happen by osmosis; I had to set time aside to practice. Practicing usually consisted of a few hours a day, every day of the week. Practice time was enough to improve and sharpen my skills, but definitely didn’t consume my life.

I believe God was shaping my musical path early to help me in later ministry. Playing the piano has been something I’ve used for His Kingdom, ministering at my home church and elsewhere. Because of the time that I, as well as others, have invested in this gift, piano playing has blessed not only me, but others as well.

As the Lord has blessed me with a particular gifting, He does the same for all His children. Once a talent is placed in our hands, it’s up to us to cultivate the gift and use it appropriately for His work. But, if we’re not careful, this gift can take shape to something destructive, as we find in Scripture.

When the Nation of Israel was wandering through the wilderness, the people began to speak against God and Moses. In God’s anger, He sent fiery serpents among the people and many died (Numbers 21). To combat this, Moses was instructed to craft a brazen serpent, set it on a pole, and whoever looked upon the brazen serpent would live. This was all accomplished as a type and foreshadow of our coming Savior, Jesus Christ.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan (II Kings 18:4, KJV).

The brazen serpent was initially a blessing/tool put into the hands of the people. It healed them and they were able to journey on into the wilderness, eventually arriving in the Promise Land. But, over time, Israel took the gift of God and began to worship it. The blessing was used improperly and became and idol, which king Ahaz eventually destroyed.

As a young girl, I could have been driven to practice the piano for hours a day to excel to a ridiculous level of mastery. At that point, excessive practice time would have been only for myself and probably wouldn’t have been used for ministry. If I wasn’t careful, even playing the piano—a gift from God—could have become an idol in my life. A blessing transformed into an element of destruction.

When we look at our lives today, and the gifts God’s placed in our hands, we need to take a moment to determine if what’s present has morphed into an idol. We can smile, and brush this off, not giving it a second thought. But, I wonder if we’ve lighted a bit of incense which smell hasn’t quite reached our nostrils to set off the alarm bells yet.

What God means for our good, the devil means for our demise. He will help utilize our flesh to manipulate God’s gift into something to harm us. If we’re not careful, and don’t pay attention, that gift can transform into an idol. If we’re lucky, God will send someone (like king Ahaz) into our life to destroy it. If we’re not, God may allow us to operate the rest of our lives under the false assumption that what we have in our life is a blessing, when really, it’s turned into our greatest curse.

Let’s pray today God helps expose any potential idol in our life. We’re not to have any other god before Him. We want to make sure we only serve the One, true God and use any talent He’s given us the right way. Let God’s gifts stay as gifts and not turn into gods.

How’s Your House

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house (Acts 16:22–34, KJV).

Changing the Atmosphere

Paul and Silas wound up in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus and for casting a devil out of a woman. While they were in prison, they prayed and praised God, and their chains were loosed. They didn’t just bring victory to themselves, but everyone in the prison! Because of the anointing of the Holy Ghost, they were able to change the entire atmosphere of the prison in which they were kept.

Reaching a Household

There was an underlying reason why Paul and Silas found themselves in the inner prison that day. There was a jailer they had to reach. But, it wasn’t just him, it was also his household. God isn’t looking just to reach one to two people; He’s moving upon households! In order for God to operate according to His Word in our own household, we need to take a look at our house.

What Should Be in Our House

Prayer

When Paul and Silas were cast into prison, the first thing they did was pray (Acts 16:25). Prayer will change the atmosphere of our home! We need to lift up our spouses, children, and extended family before the Lord continually. We shouldn’t worry about anything, but make every request known unto God in prayer (Philippians 4:6).

Praise

A fresh sacrifice of praise should be in our home and with us everywhere we go. God became upset with Israel because the heart of their worship had left and they were going through the motions (Isaiah 1:11–14). Our praise to God cannot be a ritual, but new unto God—in our song, dance, and our complete praise!

Salvation

When the jailer saw that the earthquake came after prayer and praise, he knew something supernatural was at work. He asked Paul and Silas what he needed to do to be saved (Acts 16:27–33). They preached the message of salvation (Acts 2:38–39) and his entire household believed and rose to be baptized. If salvation is in our home it will continue to perpetuate to those around our home and extended family. The salvation of God and infilling of the Holy Ghost will transcend all boundaries!

Living with Spiritual Integrity

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

The Basics of Integrity

Integrity is a spiritual effort in life and a basic principle that comes from God. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. For Christians, this is the pursuit of the righteousness of God in our lives.

Scripture notes we should walk in integrity, being blameless before God (Proverbs 19:1). We should mitigate the ability of anyone speaking against us for doing something wrong. People should even feel ashamed trying to accuse us of something because of our witness (I Peter 3:16).

The First Instance of Integrity

Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was a very beautiful woman. She was so beautiful that Abraham feared other men would try to kill him to take her as their wife. Therefore, Abraham’s fear drove him to instruct Sarah to tell people she was his sister. While unrealized by Abraham, instructing his wife to lie was fostering a lack of integrity in both of them.

While traveling through another land, King Abimelech looked upon Sarah with favor, and in learning she was Abraham’s “sister,” took her into his household to be his wife. God came to Abimelech in a dream and revealed to him that Sarah was Abraham’s wife. God told Abimelech to return Sarah to Abraham. He noted that He knew Abimelech had done all in innocence and was trying to uphold his integrity, and therefore, this sin would not be held against him (Genesis 20:3–6).

God dealt with a man who wasn’t a follower of Him about his integrity vs. Abraham, who was a called-out man of God who wasn’t operating according to integrity. We must operate in spiritual integrity at all times and be a witness to the lost world.

Acting Against Integrity

A blameless life is far more valuable than anything else. Many people act against integrity because they fear the unknown: lack of wealth, incompletion of hopes and dreams, etc. The root of our actions lacking integrity is our desire to feed our own selfishness. We must realize the true value of integrity and put this far above anything else. Losing out on what we desire is a small price to pay for integrity with God.

Avenues of Integrity

Our Possessions

Scripture tells us we must be a true witness and never use a false weight in any transactions (Proverbs 11:1). Changing the value of a weight in any capacity in our daily living is an abomination to God. If we think we can cheat in the “small” things/areas of our life we’ll cheat in the “big” things—especially our relationship with God. Moving away from integrity, even in small amounts, start us on a slippery slope that will cause us to act without integrity in all areas in life.

Relationships with People

Our words govern our integrity with people; what we communicate holds a lot of weight. We must communicate truthfully and not lie. Avoidance of white lies is paramount, and even lies we tells our children because we need a quick excuse. Scripture tells us a false witness will not go unpunished with God (Proverbs 19:5). God instructs His people to be honest, confess, and repent.

Relationship with God

Having integrity with God and our relationship with Him supersedes everything else. If we don’t have integrity with God, we don’t have integrity in any other area of our life. We can’t have integrity in our finances and not with God. We can’t have integrity with God and not our relationships. If we have integrity with God it will be present in all areas of our life. If we don’t, we have an underlying spiritual issue (II Corinthians 4:2).

Our spiritual walk (our heart) needs to be right with God. If we choose to be right on the “outside” and not on the “inside” we are in a bit of trouble. Paul warned Timothy not to allow his heart to become seared: not to allow the flesh to get out or allow the Spirit of God to get in (I Timothy 4:1–3). We must strip ourselves of our former nature, get a new mindset and a new heart, and live a lifestyle of spiritual integrity with God (Ephesians 4:17–24).

Why We Lack Integrity

There are several reasons why we lack spiritual integrity in our life. Due to our fleshly nature, we want to avoid conflict at all costs. We need to forget what the world thinks and obey what God has told us. Paul talked with Peter about his behavior toward Jews vs. Gentiles in Galatians 2.

Additionally, in our human reasoning, we think abstaining from integrity will help us gain an advantage. This is our own perception, but a lack of integrity never pays off—sin will always find us out. Ananias and Sapphira tried to lie to Peter (and the Holy Ghost) about how much they were donating to the church, but God struck them dead because of their lack of integrity (Acts 5:1–11).

Lastly, when we don’t act with a spirit of integrity, we’re in direct rebellion of God. When we know to do good and we don’t, this is rebellion and a sin.

Submission to God

The basis of integrity comes down to submission. We need to submit to God and everything/anyone He wants us to be submitted to: what’s in us, over us, and around us. We need to learn to submit to the Word of God that’s in us. The Psalmist hid the Word in his heart so he wouldn’t sin against God (Psalms 119:11). We need to obey the governance God places over us (Hebrews 13:17). And, we need to learn to submit to the body of Christ (Ephesians 5; Philippians 2:1).

We all need a revival of spiritual integrity in our lives. Let’s make a decision to submit to God and allow Him to have His way in our life.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on July 18, 2018 with Pastor Nave

It’s (Not) All About the Money

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

I’m not up-to-date on young person lingo, or fully abreast of parenting styles today, but when I was a kid there was a brilliant little thing called an allowance. If you wanted to get my attention fast, just mention my allowance and I was all ears.

I earned an allowance for doing things around the house like cleaning, recycling, emptying the dish washer, etc. (Looking back now as an adult, I acknowledge my parents were very kind to me. If I was living in my own home—well, let’s just say I’d be doing those things for free. Thanks, Mom and Dad.)

So, I had it in my mind at an early age, if I was going to “help” with something, that would equate to an additional dime or quarter to my name at the end of the week.

But, then it happened…

Mind you, I cannot remember the specific task, but it was something outside (which I loathed). My dad had asked for my help; I had obliged, watching dollar-signs flash before my eyes. After hours of agonizing work (which probably was about 10 minutes), I eagerly awaited the fruits of my labor.

But, when it came time for pay-day, there was no increase. I was in utter shock and immediately launched an investigative acquisition. Imagine my astonishment when I learned from my parents that there were things I would be asked to do. And, I would do them because it was the right thing to do, not because I would get paid.

This was a great (but hard) lesson for a child my age. I learned quickly that this lesson transcended to many other areas of my life. Years later, I wasn’t surprised to find the same model in Scripture:

Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us (Micah 3:9–11, KJV).

The leaders of Israel at the time were not acting right. Rulers were making decisions based on bribes, priests were teaching God’s law only for money, and prophets wouldn’t prophesy unless they were paid.

Can you imagine the gall of these men who would hold back the truth unless money was shoved into their faces? When I read this, I had a flash-back to my little-ole-self demanding a quarter for my strenuous child-labor in the wilderness of our back yard. Honestly, how can we deem ourselves worthy to be paid for doing any work?

Scripture tells us our work should be completed as unto the Lord (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23). If everything we do should be for God, we certainly aren’t going to charge Him—the One who owns and created everything (Psalms 24:1)!

We’ve come a long way since childhood, but this mentality can creep back up and consume us if we’re not careful. If we start to grumble about how much we’re paid on our jobs, or feel like we should earn wages for our work in God’s Kingdom, we’re no better than these past corrupt leaders of Israel!

Trust me, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but one we should be mindful of daily. We must remember God has called us to do a work for Him in many different capacities. Our pay day, or lack thereof, is going to come from Him and Him alone. And, He’ll choose to bless us how and when He sees fit.

Let’s strive not to let money get in the way of things. We don’t want that evil, that attitude, and that spirit in our life (I Timothy 6:10). Let’s be about our Father’s business. When He asks us to work, let’s do it because it’s really not about the money. It’s all about Him.

Battling the Bees

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Every year in the spring, my husband and I don our camouflage and protective eye-wear, pull out the big guns, and face the residential carpenter bees. We (mostly he) fight valiantly, but those pesky bees always seem to have the upper-hand and reside victoriously.

I, of course, run screaming into the house every time I see one. They’re pretty aggressive, and I don’t appreciate being dive-bombed walking outside. Those little suckers are even bold enough to follow me in my car half-way down the street before turning back to their domain. You’d think they’re the landlords and we the buzzing pests.

In the past, my husband has given up when he’s ran out of ammo. And, by ammo, I mean hard-core bee-killer spray. We’ve determined it’s just not good stewardship to spend a quarter of our monthly budget to fuel the ever-increasing pile of empty spray cans in the garage.

So, after we go through 4–5 cans, with minimal casualties on the bee front, we live with these pests, unable to escape. My husband ignores them, and I cower in terror (big surprise).

They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns… (Psalms 118:12, KJV)

In life, the enemy of our soul is much like these bees. He comes in and surrounds us until we feel we like have no way out. He makes us think our sin is an unmovable weight, our chains of terror unshakable, and the spiritual battle impossible. We fight for a while, and then give up and learn to cope with these “bees” in our life.

Many years ago, my husband and I lived in a less-than desirable apartment. The environment was bad and we prayed desperately for a house. God provided and blessed us with our current home. The bees have stopped at nothing to try to overtake the blessing the Lord gave us.

But, God never intended for us to live this way. He doesn’t want us to dwell with the bees in our life. He didn’t create us to cower in fear or to live a defeated life in the shadow of our enemy.

God has made us more than conquers (Romans 8:37) and has given us power to fight our enemies (Luke 10:19)—even the bees. He’s given us weapons to fight, wisdom to overcome, and He will save us from our enemies!

So, when I heard a huge thud the other day, I ran outside to check on my husband. He came wandering around the side of the house, fly swatter in hand. “I know what kills the bees,” he said, lifting up the swatter. “And, for the ones that won’t come out of their hole…,” he lifted up his other hand. With a renewed vigor, and a smile cresting my face, I gazed upon another spray can. It was filled with great stuff.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them. They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them (Psalms 118:8–12, KJV).

If you’re fighting bees the devil’s throwing at you, don’t give up. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to win, and encouragement to fight. You will win the battle.

Called to be Free

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

When I was in first grade, our teacher brought caterpillars into the classroom. (Mind you, I was at ease because they were confined to a 10-gallon glass aquarium.) We were all enthralled with these tiny creatures as they inched around the container—even me, the bug bemoaner.

One morning, we returned to school to find these caterpillars confined to a tiny green chrysalis. The classroom became abuzz with excitement awaiting their transformation. The caterpillar’s wrapping began to change from an opaque jade to transparent glass, revealing the origins of a brand-new creature. Then one day, during our math class, a distracted student yelled out that the insect had begun emergence from its dainty prison. No longer a caterpillar, it had become a Monarch butterfly.

After a few days, our class traipsed outside to the school garden, gingerly lifted the lid from the glass chamber, and set the orange and black winged creature free.

Monarch butterflies were never meant to live out their days in a transparent vessel or to be spied upon by noisy first-grade children. Their very metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, contained walls to broken barriers, foreshadowed their entire life. They were destined to be changed. They were destined to be free.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another (Galatians 5:13, KJV).

I’m not a bug (and cringe at the thought), but we are very much like the Monarch butterfly. We were born into sin (Psalms 51:5) and into invisible chains of bondage. But, our Father in Heaven didn’t create us to live in such a state. He called us to be transformed into new creatures and into a world of liberty (Romans 12:1–2, II Corinthians 5:17). We were called to be free.

Our Nation celebrates its liberty today—on the fourth of July. A people previously bound by oppressors, confined by limitations, and defined by one identity emerged changed, strong, independent, and free.

We are a blessed people, who experience the love, protection, mercy, and grace of a God who ordained our freedom before the worlds were formed, and before the breath of life was even breathed out into a living soul. Our Heavenly Father created and called us into liberty.

Even as we celebrate our freedom today, we must remember we were not called to use this freedom toward fleshly indulgences or relational strife. We were called to be free to serve one another humbly in love, just as our Father, and Savior, Jesus Christ has done not only for our Nation, but entire world.

Remember today that you were not created to live in a world of darkness. You were called into His marvellous light (I Peter 2:9). You were not called to walk in the flesh, but to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:1). You were not created to die and fall into hell, but to experience everlasting life (John 5:24). You were not created to stay bound in a world of sin, but to be freed (John 8:36).

Jesus, thank You for an opportunity to celebrate freedom today and for making a way for our country to experience liberty. It is all because of You and Your love for us. Thank you for calling us to be free.