Archive for September, 2018

Broken is Better

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalms 51:16–17, KJV).

The Nature of Brokenness

Broken means to be utterly destroyed, crushed, or smashed. This is what God wants to happen to our own spirits (flesh). Being broken is contrary to our very nature. We think everything needs to be repaired and restored to its original condition. But, God doesn’t desire to sustain the life we were born with. Jesus is not a repair-man; He’s an engineer and a creator. God wants to build something new in us!

The Reason for Brokenness

God breaks us so He can re-engineer us into something that works. He has a life only He can give us, and it will only be birthed in us through brokenness. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty (I Corinthians 1:26–27). God does His best work among the broken. In order for His Spirit (the Holy Ghost) to flow through us, we must be broken down. We must realize we have nothing to offer and need Him to change us. God is looking for people who come to Him in brokenness (Isaiah 66:2).

Why Brokenness is Better

Brokenness is Powerful

In the world’s thinking, brokenness is weak. But, God’s kingdom is the exact opposite of the earthly kingdom. To God, brokenness is powerful. Paul talked about how God gave him a thorn in the flesh and wouldn’t take it away. However, He decided to glory in his infirmities as his strength would be made perfect in weakness (II Corinthians 12:8–9).

Jesus led by example with a life of brokenness. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and healed us with His stripes (Isaiah 53:3). Like Jesus, we must experience brokenness to have His presence and power in our life. Brokenness at an altar will usher His presence into any circumstance. Our weakness is an opportunity for the Holy Ghost to rest upon us the power of God to flow through us.

Brokenness is Productive

Broken produces in us what success can never bring. We are able to grow more in God when things are rough than when things are going well. We are blessed when we’re broken (Matthew 5:3). Jesus came to preach good tidings to the meek, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and open the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus came to pour out a blessing on brokenness we wouldn’t have if we weren’t in that state!

We shouldn’t think it strange when trials come into our lives, but instead rejoice (I Peter 4:12–13). When things are going wrong, we need to start looking for the things that are right! All things (even bad things) work together for our good (Romans 8:28)! God wants to work and pour out blessings in our brokenness.

Brokenness Brings Life

Brokenness also means to break through or to bring to a place of birth. When God breaks us, He desires to birth His glory in us. Scripture tells us that unless a corn of wheat dies, it will abide alone. We must die so we can bring forth fruit (John 12:24). Out of death and brokenness, something will be born.

The Faithful Fan Club

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

When I was in grade school, fan clubs were all the craze. A group of people would bind together and proclaim themselves die-hard fans of a certain product, event, or person. (Mind you this was at the core of idolatry, but that’s another lesson for another time.)

Thankfully due to our naiveté, the object of our delight didn’t rule our lives. In our juvenile days, fan clubs were created and disbanded (sometimes in the same day), and not really given much additional thought.

However, there was a time or two, at a girlhood slumber party, a fan club meeting would be called to order. Invariably, someone had recently decided they were no longer interested in the focus of the fan club. They had jumped aboard the bandwagon of yet another fly-by-night heartthrob. (How anyone kept track of anything in those days, or at that age, I have no idea.)

To the chagrin of the club’s delegates, said member was excommunicated. No one could be a member if they weren’t going to be a true and faithful fan.

And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment (Mark 5:38–42, KJV).

Jesus was not a maker of fan clubs, but He divined the concept of putting out those who didn’t belong. In this setting of Scripture, Jairus sought Jesus as his daughter faced death. Jesus gave one instruction to Jairus: only believe (Mark 5:36).

Upon arrival, Jesus informed the mourners the maiden only slept. The response from family and friends was shocking—laughter. Without thinking twice, Jesus put everyone out of the room except Jairus, his wife, Peter, James, and John (Mark 5:37, 40).

This wasn’t a fan club meeting, but Jesus removed those from the equation who didn’t belong. The others weren’t fit to be in Jesus’ presence, or around the one in need a healing. They had lost the object of their focus, and fell victim to a movement that’s been around since the Garden of Eden: unbelief.

This may seem like a harsh lesson, but if you don’t belong, you’re going to be put out. At times, Jesus couldn’t work miracles because of people’s unbelief (Matthew 13:58). In the case of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus put out those devoid of faith so He could work a miracle.

Separation is a model we see throughout Scripture. Jesus not only demonstrated this, but we’re warned the unbelieving will be cast into the lake of fire at the final judgment (Revelation 21:8). God has given every person a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) and it’s up to us to exercise it (Matthew 17:20).

Faith is putting confidence in what we hope for/in will actually happen (Hebrews 11:1). In our Christian journey, we must join the faith “fan club” and never leave it—no matter what comes our way in life. We’ve got to live the life He’s called us to live, and that includes living by faith and not wavering in it (James 1:6)!

If you’re surrounded by the unbelieving, do what Jesus did—put them out of your life! Surround yourself with Godly people who believe in Him and His Word. Be a member of the one fan club that matters: the faithful.

The Beginning of Favor

Monday, September 24th, 2018

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20, KJV).

Hurting Before Healing

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

I remember the day I sat in the doctor’s office, letting the words of my physician digest somewhere in my brain. She was telling me I needed to be cut open and my insides ripped out. This would provide only but a chance of healing. She honestly didn’t know if it would be a cure.

After seven years of hurting, adding a painful surgery and long recovery period on top of it wasn’t a sign-up sheet I was eager to place my signature on. My mind was screaming, “I’m in pain, and you want to cause more pain. How does that make any sense?”

I had been preparing for that conversation for some time, but with the wrong side of my brain. I was thinking with the logical portion; it was ready. But, the heart side, the emotional portion, was definitely not.

I knew God was—and is—a healer. I believed that He could heal me in a moment’s notice. Nothing is too hard for Him. I had the faith, He had the power; the end result should have been a miracle in my mind. But, God chose to send me on a painful journey. May I stress this was His will and not mine?

And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them (Isaiah 19:21–22, KJV).

In this setting of Scripture, Egypt (always a type of the world) is about to experience God’s wrath. They were an idolatrous nation, hard taskmasters, self-righteous, foolish, and happy leading a Godless life.

In short, they were messed up, but God wasn’t willing to leave them there. He was on the cusp of ushering in change, but the transformation would be wrought with much pain and anguish. He would strike Egypt, but then He would bring healing.

When we’re in a painful situation and cry out to God, we have our own calculations as to how He’s going to enact healing. However, God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our pathway to recovery looks entirely different than God’s rocky road to restoration.

I wanted immediately to be pain-free. Unlike Egypt, I already felt pain. I didn’t want to experience any more before I was healed. But, sometimes it has to hurt before we can be healed. In my case, I had to hurt more before I experienced healing.

God isn’t about band aids, patch jobs, or temporary solutions. When He works, He’s going to get to the root of the problem and take care of it once and for all. Like the potter who has to crush the clay to start anew, sometimes we have to be crushed down further—even when we’re already broken—to be resurrected complete, whole, and stronger than before.

I’ve learned many times that God isn’t always going to make me feel good in smaller increments before I’m healed. But, I have to trust Him that no matter the journey, in the end He will heal me.

If God’s opened a door for you to walk down a path that looks worse than what you’re on today, let me encourage you to trust Him. You need to let Him order your steps because that road, while painful, could be the shortest distance to your healing. Just remember, it might have to hurt before you can be healed.

Beginnings: A Season of Change

Monday, September 17th, 2018

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God (Genesis 28:16–21, KJV).

Hand-Me-Downs

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

As I child I remember learning early on that seemingly innocent and harmless remarks (as a statement or a question), could actually be the worse thing you could say. From uttering these words, you could have your mouth washed out with soap, be spanked and relocated to timeout, or solidify a mortal enemy.

In case you’re curious, I’m speaking to the latter of the three today…

In every day life, complimenting someone on their clothing is not an unusual behavior on my part. I then normally ask a reflex, follow-up question: “where did you get it?” As a child, you mimic your parents. As an adult, you genuinely want to know where said item was purchased to find for yourself. But, I’ve learned the question has the innate ability to transform a smile of the recipient to an immediate scowl. This happens when their answer turns out to be one and the same: it’s a hand-me-down. And, in those moments you wish you never asked…

I’ve never understood why people think that if their clothing, cars, homes, etc. aren’t brand new, that it isn’t worthy to be blessed with, recognized, or owned. I come from a family of hand-me-downers and learned to be thankful for (and genuinely appreciate) everything I received!

My fondest memories are digging through bags of clothing looking for something new to wear and style with my own flair. Today, I’m an avid frequenter of consignment and thrift shops, and find pleasure in telling people where I find my clothing because what I have is one-of-a-kind!

Whether you like it or not, we all should have a heart to accept hand-me-downs and not view them as something irreverent or uncomely. Here’s why:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:11–13, KJV).

I don’t know about you, but my day-to-day life isn’t always filled with “walking-on-sunshine” moments. There are dark times filled with trials and battles that never seem to end. In those times, I need something to wear and fight against the enemy of my soul. And, let me tell you: I refuse to search for something new that the world has to offer! I want to wear a garment that has been tested and weathered countless storms. I’m looking for the battle armor of my God—the ultimate hand-me-down! His armor fits, works, and even looks great!

When you accept someone else’s seasonal clothing, an added bonus is the unique treasures you find. I’ve been blessed with forgotten money, toys, and other precious trinkets buried deep within overlooked pockets. Hand-me-downs can bless you beyond the immediate clothing need.

God’s armor—His hand-me-downs to His children—come with His righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, power, and Word (Ephesians 6:14–17). You don’t just get His garment, but all of Him as well. Who wouldn’t want to be wrapped up in their Savior, walking, talking, and looking like Him?

If you’ve had a different opinion of hand-me-downs in the past, I ask you to take another look today. Pray that you’re careful not to discard every one that’s offered up to you—especially the garments and anointing of God. Trust me, that’s one hand-me-down you really do need. And, once you have it on, you’ll realize it’s not a hand-me-down, but really a hand-me-up.

Because I Saw Your Storm

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him (Luke 8:22–25, KJV).

All of us have faced a storm at one point in our lives. Our storms may not have been the same caliber, and they may have felt different in our current vessel, but all storms are the same to God. There is no storm that’s greater than God’s ability. We’re reminded of this truth in our key Scripture setting today. Jesus had specifically sent His disciples in a boat away from the masses so they could find some time alone with Him. In our lives, no matter how much we need the church, we still need times alone with the Master in order to make it to Heaven.

Once Jesus and the disciples got into the boat, Jesus disappeared to take a nap. Then, a storm came upon the disciples in the ship. The disciples came to find Jesus, and He awoke to calm the wind and the waves. No sooner was the storm overturned, Jesus turned to the disciples and asked them a key question: where is your faith? It wasn’t that the disciples didn’t have faith in God, they didn’t have faith in themselves. We need to consider where is our own faith in our own storms. When we’re in His presence, and have the Holy Ghost in our lives, He’s given us every power to overcome the storm we’re in!

It may seem harsh that after Jesus calmed the storm, He turned to chasten the disciples after what they had been through. But, just like the disciples, we all need correction now and then in our walk with Christ. However, in order for Jesus to correct us, He must allow a storm to come into our life. Storms will teach us things the calmness of the sea will not. There is a purpose to everything (including storms) in our life!

While the disciples saw and learned great truths about their storm on the boat, Jesus was not yet done teaching. No sooner did Jesus calm the storm, the disciples arrived on the shores of the Gadarenes. They soon were faced with a demon-possessed man(Luke 8:26–27). This man was without control of himself, but still found a way to seek Jesus. When Jesus cast the demons out of the man, he became clothed and in his right mind (Luke 8:35). They learned when you are in the presence of Jesus there is fullness of joy.

When we take a step back and see the entire purpose of this storm, we realize it’s not truly about the disciples, but the man in the Gadarenes. The man, living in the caves was able to look out over the water to witness the disciples in their storm. He was able to see Jesus calm the storm and deliver the disciples in their hour of need. He realized if Jesus was able to calm their storm, Jesus would be able to heal his storm, no matter how great it seemed! Sometimes God will allow us to endure a storm that will minister to someone else. If it wasn’t for the test, there wouldn’t be a testimony. Let’s thank God for trusting us today with the storm we’re in because He’s using us to reach another lost soul.

Practical Holiness: Christian Liberty

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

The Call to Liberty

As born-again Christians, we have been called unto liberty (freedom) (Galatians 5:13). However, sometimes people use this freedom to throw out God’s moral law in an attempt to eliminate the misapplication of the whole law by mankind. We must remember God still has a right and wrong defined in His Word whether or not man understands (or applies) this correctly.

What is Christian Liberty?

Christian liberty is freedom from sin. Before our conversion—repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus, and infilling of the Holy Ghost—we were at the mercy of our sinful nature. Now, in our daily life of walking in the Spirit, the Holy Ghost helps us live above sin. Therefore, we have a daily choice whether we sin or abstain from sin. If we abuse our Christian liberty and choose to live in sin, we can lose our true liberty (freedom) in Jesus Christ.

How so? We were slaves to sin before Jesus Christ saved us. After the cross, Jesus made us free to be slaves (servants) to God instead. He’s given us the privilege to live and walk in the way of righteousness and have this liberty (Romans 6:14–23). Our liberty is shaped in submission; freedom and submission work hand-in-hand. Because of this paradigm, to be free from sin automatically means submission to the will of  God. We’re either submitted to God or submitted to the flesh and the devil. If we refuse God’s law, we reject Him and serve Satan instead. Since we will serve something, it may as well be God!

Freedom from the Law

The law provides various freedoms for the Christian in their daily walk. We are free from the:

Penalty of the Law

The Old Testament law had no margin. Any trespass had an equal punishment: eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law with His precious blood. When He paid the ultimate price with His death on the cross, He diminished all power the law had to condemn us (Galatians 3:13).

Obligation to Fulfill the Law by Human Effort Alone

We need God’s grace to counteract the sin and the Gospel of Christ to deliver us from sin. Mankind can never fulfill the law alone by his own deeds. Scripture teaches us that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28). It’s only through the Holy Ghost working in and through us that we can fulfill all the righteousness the law demands. It’s God’s Spirit doing the work, not our flesh! We’ve received the moral law in our hearts through God’s Spirit, and this empowers and drives us to walk a righteous life: abiding in the law, through God’s holiness.

Destructive Power of the Law that Arises from Men’s Abuse

The religious sects of the day (particularly the Pharisees) distorted God’s original purpose for giving the law. The law was good—as it came from God! But, it eventually became a harmful force in the lives of the people because religious leaders tried to make it provide salvation, which it couldn’t do. When Jesus came on the scene, because of their misinterpretation of the law, they missed who Jesus was and rejected true salvation. But, we’re not destroyed today because we’re under the power and protection of Jesus Christ. His Spirit now enables us to fulfill what the law demands; we can serve in the Spirit what we couldn’t do in the flesh.

Ceremonial Law

There is a difference between the ceremonial and moral law of God. Moral laws are timeless: God hasn’t changed His mind about them regardless of the time or culture (e.g., lying). But, there are parts of God’s law that are ceremonial in nature. Jesus segmented ceremonial law with moral law when He taught that what comes out of us (not goes in) defiles a man (Mark 7:18). Jesus was referring to ceremonial law in this instance. He noted the religious leaders didn’t understand the law (or it’s purpose) from this example. Why did God institute ceremonial law? God used ceremonial law as types and shadows of what was to come—they all pointed to Jesus Christ, as everything would be fulfilled in Him.

Guidelines of Christian Liberty

Christians have liberty to take action in non-moral matters: we’re free to participate in any activity or practice that does not violate Biblical morality. We can follow individual judgment where the Bible does not have specific direction, as long as it aligns with the convictions of the Holy Ghost as it leads us in our individual spiritual pursuits. But, in saying this, there are still guidelines to follow! Living for God is not about every man for (or about) himself.

Paul taught the church in Romans 14 about how to handle non-moral principles. We must not judge others and avoid controversies over issues that are not morally backed (Romans 14:1–4). Every man should have his own convictions and should follow them (I Corinthians 6:12Romans 14:5). Even if others don’t have the same convictions, we should still follow what God has called us to do. Whatever a person does, it should be done as unto the Lord (Romans 14;8). Our actions should be done in Jesus’ name and He should receive the glory for them (Colossians 3:17). Lastly, anything we do in our liberty should not be a stumbling block to another believer (Romans 14:14). If what we do causes a problem for another, we should stop! If we wound our brother’s conscience, we sin against Christ. Regardless, rather than judging others, we should judge ourselves.

What Liberty Isn’t

Christian liberty isn’t a license to disobey God (Jude 1:4). We have the freedom to submit to truth and not use our freedom to gratify the flesh! As in any aspect of God’s law, we need to have submission to Godly authority for liberty to function properly in the church (Hebrews 13:17). When we don’t have specific dictations in God’s Word, we call upon leaders to implement general principles that are guided by God’s Word. We cannot walk in disorderly conduct and do what’s right in our own eyes. God is not the author of confusion, especially when it comes to Christian liberty. We need a moderate, conservative stance that helps us align our lives with Scripture. Remember, God has given the church the ability to guide and govern in its present culture. The church will have success in this present hour.

The Next Step

We’ve covered basic guidelines to follow when determining our actions around Christian liberty. To make sure we’re in alignment with these guidelines, we can ask ourselves the following questions when partaking in activities that are morally neutral or seemingly innocent: 1) Can we glorify God in our activity? 2) Is our activity detrimental physically, mentally, or spiritually? 3) Can the activity gain control over us in any way? 4) Is our activity a stumbling block to a believer or unbeliever? Let’s have the freedom to submit to the Word of God and live in the right confines of Christian liberty.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on September 5, 2018 with Pastor Nave

It’s Not All About the Cookies

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

There are people who tell time by clocks, stars, weather, or the seasons. But, there’s another group of people in the world who chart the year by one specific event: Girl Scout cookie sales.

As a former Girl Scout, I remember that time of the year and honestly dreaded it. No measure of cookie-goodness could outweigh the time and energy of door-to-door selling, cookie-sorting, meticulous order-tracking (mostly on my mother’s behalf), and the endless days of distribution.

However, most people don’t realize Girl Scout cookies don’t make up the entirety of the Girl Scout experience.

All the other times of the year, I absolutely loved being a Girl Scout because it didn’t involve cookies. I had a blast learning new things, completing crafts, singing songs, building friendships, helping others, and earning badges. Girl Scouts had such a profound effect on me that I still remember the Girl Scout promise today:

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And, to live by the Girl Scout Law

Notice, nowhere in the Girl Scout promise mentions that abhorred word—cookies. But, when people hear Girl Scouts, what’s the one thing they think about? Cookies. (Be honest, you do too.) An aspect which accounts for approximately 11% of the calendar year is what our minds gravitate toward when thinking about the program.

It’s easy to let things get out of perspective and lose sight of the more important matters. In the realm of Girl Scouting, this is true for most people. They don’t realize the core focus is about serving God, others, and living a life in alignment with God’s Word.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:36–40, KJV).

As humans, we tend to get our focus askew in other areas, especially when it comes to the Word of God. I love verses of Scripture that talk about our salvation experience, but our walk with God isn’t encompassed by repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the initial infilling of the Holy Ghost.

Like Girl Scouts, our fundamental salvation experience with God makes up—in truth—less than 1% of our walk with Him. Every day after that is what living for God is really about: loving the Lord and loving others. And, 99% of our experience with God is wrapped up in this and everything in-between. If it wasn’t so, Jesus wouldn’t have said it!

When it comes to your relationship God, what do you think about? Does your mind always drift to your original experience with Him, or is it drawn to the depths and riches you’ve discovered in Him, what He’s done in your life, or what He’s led you to do in the lives of others?

Let’s step away from our initial experience and go deeper in Him. There’s more to Hm and what He wants to do through us than what He did on day one. Just remember, it’s not all about our initial salvation. And, it’s also not all about the cookies.

Beginning Faith

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran (Genesis 12:1–4, KJV).