Archive for August, 2018

Transplanted

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

I’ve been created with a unique talent most people don’t have in this life. It has taken years to cultivate, although garnered with little-to-no practice, and I’ve excelled to levels that are unprecedented in this world. This gift even comes with its own great title—Plant Killer.

I’m a bonified plant killer. My main issue is that I forget to water plants, or over water plants (how dumb is that?). Sometimes, I let a plant get too large for its pot and then it becomes root-bound…

Once I had a heart for a particular plant, and valiantly tried this transplant thing—the calculated project of moving a plant from one pot to another. But, the environment wasn’t right (big surprise) and I shocked the plant too badly. It died shortly thereafter.

My career in transplants was short-lived, but God’s been in the business for a long time.

But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them. And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground (Ezekiel 19:12–13, KJV).

The Nation of Israel had continued to be disobedient to God, were wicked in their hearts, and disregarded His law. So, God plucked them up out of their land and burned their city and temple with fire. Then, in the words of the New Living Translation, transplanted them into Babylonian captivity for 70 years.

After their transplant, they couldn’t flourish because it wasn’t the right environment: it was captivity. Like my poor plant, the abrupt transition of ripping them out of their homes never welcomed adjustment and growth in a new land.

Later, God performed another transplant when he grafted in the Gentiles (Romans 11:17–21). God opened the doors, with the death of Jesus Christ, for all nations and people to receive the blessings promised to Abraham and His children. God broke off some of the branches of unbelievers (in the Jews) to make room for the Gentiles.

God has promises for His people—His chosen Nation of Israel, and all Gentile nations. But, if we’re not careful, lose faith, follow after other gods, fail to abide in His Word, etc., He’ll pluck us up and/or pluck us off.

Transplanting is easy for God and He can move us into a place of plenty or a place of puny. But, remember He’s a Transplanter, not a plant-killer. He transplants because of His love and mercy toward us.

When we’re transplanted in any environment, there’s still hope for us. God didn’t kill Israel in the Old Testament. He made them live in less-than-desirable circumstances for a while so they could shape up. After 70 years, He released them and gave them strength and favor to rebuild the city. This was another transplant in Israel’s history: back home, back to good soil, and back in God’s favor.

If you’ve been transplanted recently, remember there’s hope for you today. Transplants are not final (which can be good or bad), but God has a will to bless and prosper you. Pray that God can help you transition to be a part of His vine, with your roots firmly planted in good soil. And, once you’ve found that good land, pray that He helps you stay there until He’s ready to transplant you on heaven’s shore.

New Beginnings for Families

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch…And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee (Genesis 6:13–14, 17–18, KJV).

The Ultimate Tour Guide

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Several years ago, my husband and I took a vacation to Portland, Maine and the surrounding area. One day, traipsing through the town of Wiscasset, we found ourselves on a tour of a music box museum. We both were fascinated with the history of antique music boxes, transformation, ingenuity, and ornate beauty. Before we knew it, the two-hour tour was over, and we were that much more educated in the field of music box antiquity.

The experience would have been entirely different if we weren’t accompanied by a tour guide. My husband isn’t thrilled at wasting time staring into rooms of staged furniture and knick-knacks, and I can’t say I’m the same, especially on a trip. But, our tour guide uniquely shaped the experience from a potential dull one to a thoroughly enjoyable one.

Why was the tour agreeable (for all of you doubting that we could have fun in a music box museum)? Our tour guide was deeply knowledgeable on the subject at hand, directed our focus, and led us through the right rooms and down the right hallways to the most interesting music boxes. He proved his skill in education and entertainment time after time as our small group huddled closely around small (and large) music boxes and oohed and aahed over melodic songs.

For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death (Psalms 48:14, KJV).

On our music box journey, we trusted a complete stranger as our guide and expected him to lead us until the tour was over. We counted on him to share his knowledge, tell the truth, and direct us safely through the house so we wouldn’t break anything. We felt safe in knowing we’d leave with the same amount in our bank accounts as before we stepped into the museum of priceless antiquities.

For some of us, it’s relatively easily to put complete trust in a stranger to guide us. But, when it comes to God, who formed us in the womb, and desires to be our guide, Him we question and don’t fully trust.

As the Psalmist writes, God is our God and has been from everlasting. As our Father, He desires to be our Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). He wants to establish our goings (Psalms 37:23), light the path in which we should walk (Psalms 119:105), and guide us into all truth (John 16:13).

He’s the One who knows all things (Romans 11:33–34). His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). And, He’s the One who created us (Genesis 1:27)! Shouldn’t we seek Him to counsel us in everything we do in this life? Shouldn’t we trust Him to bring us through every trial? Shouldn’t we turn to Him when we need help instead of everything and everyone else?

God is intimately acquainted with us and knows our thoughts before we even think them. For a God who’s this close to us, we shouldn’t want anyone else to be our guide—for every second of the day until we leave this world. He’s promised to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)!

This life we’re living is a journey. There’s not one big roadmap or earthly tour guide who knows it all. No one can solely teach us what we need to know and help us make it through safely. We have to trust in and follow the ultimate Guide—Jesus Christ.

If you’ve found yourself a little lost today, it’s time to trust in Jesus. It’s time to commit your thoughts, your decisions, your actions, and your life to Him. With Jesus, He’s not willing to hold out for just a two-hour tour. When you ask God to be your Counselor, He’ll be yours for life. Will you let Him be your Guide today?

Unity in the Church

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Basic Principles of Unity

The principle of unity is taught all throughout the Bible. Unity means “an agreement of purpose” or being one. The church’s main purpose is to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19–20); we’re called to reach a lost and dying world. As a church, we’re admonished to strive toward this purpose. But, individually, we need to be conformed to the image of Christ first.

We’re called to have one mind and one mouth as the body of Christ (Romans 15:5). Paul’s goal was to keep His focus on knowing and growing in Jesus. Like Paul, we need to keep our focus directed on Jesus and eliminate worldly distractions that can creep in to divide the body. It is only because of Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross, that the church body can be unified.

The Power of Unity

Unity is so powerful that when evil men came together at the tower of Babel, this got God’s attention and He came down from Heaven to disperse them. Conversely, when good men and women came together on the Day of Pentecost, they too solicited God’s attention, but the Holy Ghost came down instead and filled them!

Unity produces synergy: the interaction of two or more people, creating a combined effect that’s greater than an individual. For example, one can put 1,000 to flight and two can put 10,000 to flight (Deuteronomy 32:30). We must have unity in order to produce synergy. Purpose produces unity, unity produces synergy, and synergy produces results for the purpose. It’s all a great circle of influence.

The early church demonstrated unity and synergy. It allowed them all to turn their world upside down (Acts 17:6). The disciples continued in one accord and God added to the church daily (Acts 2:42–47). Because unity is so important for the church, the enemy of our souls hates it intensely and will do nothing to stop it. We must be on constant guard against the attacks of the devil. He will try to halt the production and continuance of unity in the church and in our individual lives. In the book of John, Jesus prayed for His disciples that they might be one as He and His Father were one (John 17:20–22). The perfection in being one will help guard us from the flesh and demonic attacks  (John 17:23).

Precious Unity

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore (Psalms 133:1–3).

This Psalm of David mentions the unity of God’s people. Aside from the beautiful description, there are pivotal truths unlocked for the church about unity.

Unity is Good and Pleasant

Jesus noted there is none good but God (Mark 10:18). When we are unified, God is with us and flowing through us. He is blessing us with His presence! Unity only can show forth a positive example to the world. When we operate as a unified body of Christ, this reduces stress that’s present with discord and opposition. The byproduct of stress is a stress-free church!

Unity is Like Precious Ointment

Ointment flowing down the mountain is symbolic of submission. There cannot be unity without humility; therefore, we must have the mind of Christ and spirit of humility. Scripture admonishes us not to do anything  in strife but to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). God has given all of us a new nature, and in this nature is found humility, which leads to unity.

The fragrance of the ointment symbolizes the attractive drawing power of other people to God’s presence. The world will know we’re Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another (John 13:34–35). As the oil was holy, our love for others needs to be holy. The holy anointing will break the yoke of bondage and influence unity. The formula for this oil was handed down from God directly to Moses and was not to be used to anything else but ministering in the Tabernacle. This speaks to the uniqueness of unity that’s promised to the church alone—this cannot be accomplished by the world (I Peter 2:9).

Unity is Like Dew

Mt. Hermon is the highest mountain in Palestine. It would receive so much moisture, it would provide plentiful water to the nation of Israel. Dew (by nature) will cool the hot, dry, scorched land. In God’s people, it will cool anger, temper, and disagreements. This will help us conquer our flesh, humble ourselves, and unify ourselves with the church. We’re commanded to live peaceably with all men as much as we can (Romans 12:18), and getting into the flow of God’s presence.

Unity is Pleasant and Produces Blessing

We are promised eternal life if we enter into unity within the church and with Jesus Christ. Heaven promises the fullness of our inheritance with the Lord and a continuation of His presence forevermore. But, we don’t have to wait until Heaven to experience these promises; we can obtain portions of them now. Scripture tells us when we’re gathered together in unity, Christ is in the midst of us (Matthew 18:20). We don’t have to be without His presence while we’re occupying earth.

Paul established many different churches, and in the latter part of his ministry, strove to influence churches to dwell in unity. He wanted to make sure they didn’t sin against each other, cause each other to stumble, but to love each other as Christ loved the church (I Corinthians 8:9–13). We need to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:13) and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13).

Conclusion

We need to be in one mind and have compassion on one another (I Peter 3:8). Unity benefits the individual and the church. However, the greatest purpose for us to live and be unified is to save a lost and dying world. Let’s abide in God’s presence and seek unity every day. There’s a soul that needs to be saved.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on August 15, 2018 with Pastor Melder

Fair-Weatherers

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Friendship is an important aspect of human socialization. We’ve all found friends in the oddest of places, strangest circumstances, and potential “meet cute” moments. There are friends who last for a lifetime and then others who breeze in and out of life as quickly as the weather changes. When the going gets tough…well, they’re not sticking around to see the relationship through.

I’ve learned to call these people “fair-weather” friends.

Friendship is wonderful when you experience fun-in-the-sun moments filled with glorious adventures, light-hearted laughter, and emotional-moving conversations. But, when a cloud drifts in and brings a little rain, which necessitates seeking shelter and the comfort of a friend, those fair-weather friends can’t stand being wet.

Fair-weather friends are only interested in sunshine. They’re not willing to hang around to see the rainbow appear at the end of the storm.

We’ve all known our share of fair-weather friends, but this isn’t the only group of fair-weatherers. I’d argue more people fall into this next bucket of folks, which group I call “fair-weather Christians.”

If you’ve fallen into the first category, you’ll most likely fall into the second. But, even if we’re committed to earthly friendships, I’ve found we’re not all the same when it comes to our relationship with God.

When money’s in the bank, our family is in good health, and our job’s secure, it’s easy to praise and worship the Lord. But, when our marriage is a mess, the creditors are knocking at the door, or we don’t receive a promotion, many of us like to give up on God. With the smallest raincloud on the horizon, we turn the other way to seek our own shelter instead of trusting the Master of the wind and the storm.

All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way (Psalms 44:17–18, KJV).

In Scripture, we find God’s people experiencing a little rain on their parade. They were running from their enemies, seeing their land plundered and scattered, standing in ridicule by other nations, facing constant humiliation, and wearing a seemingly badge of shame everywhere they went.

But, they didn’t allow a change in the weather affect their relationship with God. Through these torrential downpours they had not forgotten God or violated their covenant with Him. Their heart hadn’t turned back and they didn’t move away from Him. They stayed the course even if this meant getting a little wet.

God is looking for a people, a church, or a friend, that isn’t going to give up and go home on account of a little rain. He’s not looking for a fair-weather people, but those who are committed to Him—100% sold out, no matter what.

God only has the best in store for us, and secrets yet to reveal. We’ll never know all of who God is and what He wants to accomplish in our lives if we can’t learn to dance in the rain once in a while. Don’t be a fair-weather friend or fair-weather Christian. Be a child of God and leave the weather out of it.

The King of Your Mind

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

In I Samuel 8, the Nation of Israel desired to have a king to reign over them. They wanted the structure the world established, not the promises the Lord had always provided. By making this decision, God noted they had rejected Him. The prophet Samuel told the Nation what an earthly king would do to them: take their land, children, and evoke hardship, but Israel disregarded every warning and followed their fleshly desire.

We’re commanded to worship and abide by the Lord’s ordinances; however, logic even dictates we do so. It’s more reasonable to stay with God because He’s never failed or forsaken us. Giving ourselves back to Him is the least we can do (Romans 12:1).

Nothing good can come by taking God off His rightful throne in our life. This is why we must be diligent to guard our hearts and minds against the things of this world and the things of the flesh. What we don’t filter from our heart will determine what will take over our mind. We must be transformed in our mind (Romans 12:2) and allow Jesus to be Lord of our life.

Practical Holiness: Basic Principles

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

The Very Nature of God

As discussed last week, holiness is an essential attribute of God. It is who God is! We are called to be holy in all manner of our behavior because our God is holy (I Peter 1:15). We are to think how He thinks, love what He loves, hate what He hates, and act how He acts. Holiness is the target or end goal for the believer; we can’t make it to heaven unless we follow it in our life (Hebrews 12:14).

Inward and Outward Holiness

Holiness is comprised of two concepts that work together: 1) separation from sin and worldliness and 2) dedication to God and His will. We are called not to love the world or the things in it (I John 2:15–17). And, when we follow after holiness, this will be evident in the inner man as well as the outer man (body and spirit) (II Corinthians 7:1). Our attitudes, thoughts, and spiritual responsibility will transcend to actions and physical responsibility. Inward holiness will produce outward holiness (outward holiness will not produce inward holiness). We must be changed from the inside-out!

The Work of Holiness

Spiritual results will require spiritual work. Holiness will not come automatically; we must work at it. The Holy Ghost (Spirit of God) will develop this within us and grow our spiritual maturity. Paul admonished the church to be dead to sin and not allow it to reign in their body. Instead, we are to be instruments of righteousness and lend ourselves over to God working in us and through us (Romans 6:11–13).

Important Keys to Developing Holiness

It’s a Joint Venture

Developing holiness is a joint effort between us and our Savior. We need to work out our own salvation, but the operation of the Holy Ghost in us will help us to do God’s will and His good pleasure (Philippians 2:2). We must work on obtaining (and living a life of) holiness or we won’t have it. Realize, God won’t force holiness upon us. Our Lord has given us the ability to walk in holiness but has left us with the responsibility to do the walking. If live a life consecrated to Him, nothing—even achieving holiness—will be impossible.

It’s a Continual Process

The work of holiness in our life will be complete only when we get to heaven. God realizes our holiness work won’t be complete until then, but in the interim, He still calls us to be perfect in a relative sense. We are to be perfect in our mind (Philippians 3:15) and to grow in grace and our knowledge of our Lord and Savior (II Peter 3:18). As we all grow and mature at different rates, God holds us to different levels of accountability. God evaluates our personal maturity and growth in different ways; however, we all still must advance toward holiness and bear more spiritual fruit in Him. Remember, God is trying to get results out of us!

It’s a Daily Walk

If we live and abide in holiness one day at a time, holiness becomes achievable. As mentioned previously, holiness doesn’t happen over night, and won’t be complete until we make Heaven. But, it’s going to happen if we aim for holiness every single day. While holiness principles seem daunting, God is faithful to us and does not tempt us above what we’re able to bear. He will always make a way of escape for us to follow Him into holiness (I Corinthians 10:13). We can live today without sinning! There’s a promise in God’s Word that there is no temptation we can’t overcome. Jesus told people time after time to go and sin no more. They didn’t have the Holy Ghost. What’s our excuse?

Our Daily Walk in Holiness

We need to obey God’s Word and resist temptations to fall short of the glory of God.  The more we talk to Jesus the more we become like Him. Therefore, we need to pray daily. If others can pray that we become holy, we can pray that we become holy (I Thessalonians 5:23). Praying also coincides with reading the Word of God daily. If we plant the Word in our heart we won’t sin against God (James 1:21). After reading His Word, we need to meditate on it and determine how we can change our lives and obey it.

We also must personalize the Word of God. We need to realize our responsibility to die out to sin and follow after God, His Word, and His plan for holiness. This will be carried out when we eliminate the opportunities for sin in our life. We should abstain from unnecessary spiritual pressure and not make provision for the flesh. Keeping after holiness is a daily effort! Every thought needs to come under the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:4–5). Lastly, we should practice until we’re made perfect: practice the walk of holiness. As we’ve spent most of our life learning to do things the wrong way (our way), we need to practice living our lives God’s way. The more we do it, the easier it will become.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on August 08, 2018 with Pastor Nave

Infected

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

I remember when the chickenpox virus invaded our home as a child, and rightly so as I was the first of three girls to become infected. I had an absolutely terrible case, which spread quickly to my youngest sister. But, my middle sibling was determined not to catch this deadly illness.

She’d stop at nothing to limit her exposure to us “sickly ones.” She’d quarantine herself in her room, refuse to come to the dinner table, wouldn’t play with any toys, and if an inoculation was available at the time, she would have emptied her piggy bank to buy it.

Alas, the day arrived when she came home from school. She was talking to my mother about her day, scratching herself unmercifully.

“Marie?” my mother casually asked. “Yeah, Mom?” “Do you have the chickenpox?” Continuing to scratch, she answered, “Yeah, I came down with it early this morning.”

Now, she had infected her entire first-grade class…

Proximity. As in the case of chickenpox, sometimes you can have an effect on people without even trying or meaning to do so. Trust me—I didn’t plan on either of my sisters getting sick, but it happened just by accident. Because you’re a carrier of chickenpox, those who don’t have it, can get it from you.

The power of proximity isn’t so great from a virus-standpoint, but truly awesome from another one.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1–4, KJV).

When we’re full of the Holy Ghost—God’s presence flowing through us—it can impact people. It’s like an infectious disease that starts to rub off on others just because we’re close. Whatever you’re doing can spread to someone else, but in a good way.

That’s the power of God’s presence. Without us trying to do anything, just by being a carrier of His Spirit, we can be a light to people in a world of darkness (Matthew 5:16). Once they get a taste of that light, they want to stay in the light. Just as if you get close to a fire, you’re going to become ignited yourself!

My sister was pretty resistant to chickenpox on day one, but when she finally got it, it almost didn’t phase her. She almost accepted it into her life once she realized (for her) that it wasn’t all that bad. It was just some scratchy dots on her skin.

The same thing happens with others and Jesus Christ. When you stay close, let His presence continue to flow through you to them, they’ll realize it’s not so bad after all. And, when they finally catch on fire with God’s Spirit in them, they’ll accept it too.

Become an infectious vessel for God. Be a carrier of His presence. Watch how fast His presence will spread to your home, school, job, and community. All it can take is one encounter. Are you ready to get close and let Him out?

The One Ingredient

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

For any family event or cookie-baking session, my mom and I map out a meticulous schedule. We know what’s being purchased, measured, assembled, baked, cooled, frozen, etc. down to the millisecond.

As I need constant supervision in my cooking escapades, all of this cooking/baking happens in my mom’s kitchen under her close scrutiny. This is how she catches my cooking faux pas—a missed ingredient here, failure to pre-heat the oven there…you know, the little things.

This is why schedules are of the utmost importance to maximize time and resource allocation. We have one kitchen, one oven, one time to cook, and one chance to get it right. Missing one thing could make all the difference.

At the end of the day, my mom’s able to cook or bake anything without a hitch. Except just one time…

I don’t recall the exact dish, but it was accurately assembled, the oven was set to preheat, the food was placed in the oven at the exact cook time, and the timer set. But, when the timer went off, and we reached inside the oven—the food was stone cold. The oven had died.

You will plant crops but not harvest them. You will press your olives but not get enough oil to anoint yourselves. You will trample the grapes but get no juice to make your wine (Micah 6:15, NLT).

I learned a vital lesson in Cooking 101. You can have all your ingredients, follow the recipe to a T, have the proper equipment, but none of that really matters in the end. If you want your food cooked, you still need one critical element: heat.

This lesson can be applied to how we do everything in life, but with one substitution. We can have all the right stuff, follow every direction, and have the proper resources. However, if we want to be successful and victorious, we all need one thing: God.

In our daily living, on the job, at school, in our ministries, or anywhere else, we can have what we think we need to do the work. But, the output isn’t going to be enough. Without God, nothing matters and nothing is truly achievable.

This Scripture struck a chord with me. Israel would press olives but not have enough oil to anoint themselves. They had the olives, they had the oil, but it stopped there. What they had wouldn’t suffice as (or for) the anointing.

That’s the ticket—God’s presence equals the anointing. And, if you don’t have His anointing flowing in your life, what you do and what you have doesn’t matter. What’s left is a hard, cold shell needing the fire of the Holy Ghost to heat it up, get it going, and deliver something good when it’s all over.

We need God. We need His anointing. We need His fire.

Let’s find a closet of prayer today and ask God to show us the areas in our life that need some heat. We need God’s presence to enter in and re-fire us. Ask Him to be the one ingredient you desperately need today. You’ll realize it’s the One who makes all the difference.