Archive for December, 2018

The Danger of No Smiths

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found (I Samuel 13:19–22, KJV).

Doing What’s Right

Throughout the Bible, there were many years when men, kings, rulers, and leaders did evil in the sight of the Lord. During these years, man did what was right in his own eyes, but this led them down the path to destruction. We must realize there are some things in life we cannot change and some things we cannot do! We won’t win when we do what’s right in our own eyes. This is why God gave us a Pastor to lead us so we can do what’s right according to the Word of God.

What’s Best for Us

The Middle East has been in constant turmoil since Biblical times; there were always battles. Today, Israel is surrounded by countries that want to dominate them. No matter what, the Nation acts in accordance what’s best for them. Likewise, our God will always act in accordance with what’s best for us. Regardless of what we feel, see, or think, God is in control of our life! We can’t be upset about what’s happening in our life: the promises of God are yea and amen.

Losing Our Smiths

We can’t do what everything thinks we should do because this will produce a weakened state. Our key Scripture notes how Israel became a weakened state because of disobedience (one mistake). The Philistines came in and overtook the Nation. Their first action was to remove the blacksmiths and put them in their own employment. They eliminated Israel’s ability to create weapons in the future. When Nebuchadnezzar came to attack later on, Israel had to go to the Philistines to purchase weapons!

Today, the world is still coming against the church.  False doctrine is trying to creep in and remove our ability to “make weapons” to fight. It wants the church to do what’s right in our own eyes and lay aside what used to be sacred to us. We need smiths in the house of God that will declare they’re not going to be what the world wants them to be.

Keep Your Weapons

One of the key weapons of the church is our worship. We can’t allow Satan to rob us of our worship. If we refuse to worship, we’re no different than the remainder of the world. Remember, in His presence, there is fullness of joy.

Life is going to be much easier and promises will come quicker when we do it God’s way. Living God’s way is following after a life of separation and distinction. When we don’t keep ourselves separate, we’ve become a people that don’t have any smiths. Don’t allow yourself to become “de-weaponized” in or outside of God’s house! In 2019, we must make up our minds that we’re not going to lose our smiths!

Who Wants to Lick the Spoon?

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Who wants to lick the spoon? If you ever want to witness a human-stampede, come and hang out with my family when this phrase is uttered.

When we’re cleaning up the dinner table and a serving utensil could use a “cleaning” before heading into the sink, my mom will ask this in a sing-song voice. There’s typically less pinching and eye-poking at this juncture because the crew has already had a taste of the current entrée. However, there’s still a fight for the last lick to satiate the pallet.

But, when it comes to the pre-meal—or better yet, the pre-dessert lick—don your elbow pads, boxing gloves, and eye black because you’re in for a fight. There’s something about getting to sample food before anyone else, even if it’s just a little taste. It helps set the stage for your taste buds, salivary glands, and stomach of what’s yet to be devoured. You can hardly contain your excitement for the dessert to emerge from the oven or dinner to be served.

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Romans 8:23–25, KJV).

I love this Scripture setting. It’s almost like God wrote it knowing the future spoon-licking tournaments my family would observe multiple times a year. However, that’s not really what it’s about (but close…)

Believers have the Holy Ghost: a foretaste of our future glory. In other Scriptures, the Holy Ghost is described as the earnest (or down payment) of our inheritance (II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:14). It gives us a desire for more of what God has in store for us in Heaven, a time when we’re not bound by sin and suffering.

To me, this mirrors our spoon-licking activities here on earth. We get a taste of something awesome and then long to have more of it. The “brains” of our day say more of something doesn’t always equal better, but when it comes to the Holy Ghost (and food), I have to disagree! A little lick isn’t all I want of my mom’s mashed potatoes—I want to eat a huge pile at dinner! I also yearn to experience the Holy Ghost without measure as well as an immortal and incorruptible body (I Corinthians 15:53–54).

A small difference, however, is when my mom offers up the spoon, there’s only one person who gets it. There’s no way two are partaking (we’re family, but we don’t share cooties). Conversely with God, we’re all given a chance to “lick the spoon” when we’re first saved. When we repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus, His promise to all is the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38–39). After our initial infilling, we don’t have to wait around for another spoon—we can experience the Holy Ghost every day of our life!

While the Holy Ghost is active and alive in our lives, we still must patiently wait for God to roll out the red carpet and invite all of us to the dinner table (and/or when He serves His heavenly angel food cake). I don’t know about you, but when that day comes, my spoon-licking days will be over. I’m all in for the full meal deal. I desire all of what God has to offer in Heaven and the change that will happen in my life!

If you haven’t yet had a foretaste (licking the spoon) of what God has for you today, find an alter of prayer, a body of water, and come running when God offers up His spoon (the Holy Ghost). You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll eagerly wait for the rest of the meal awaiting you in Heaven.

The Story Behind God With Us

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

Matthew 1:20–25  // Watch Service Online

But Wait, There’s Myrrh

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

The Christmas season is typically focused on the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Everyone else is a secondary character. While this isn’t wrong, I’m here to tell you that in addition to Jesus, there is gold, frankincense, and a whole lot myrrh!

That’s a bad joke, but in all seriousness: in addition to our Savior, there are other important characters in the story about this crucial child—Joseph, Mary, angels, shepherds, and the wise men. Without them, we wouldn’t know just how great Jesus truly is.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:1–2, KJV).

The Magi were Medes who were students of the heavens and discerners of the secrets of Nature. Ultimately, they were men of learning. When they spotted an unusual star in the east—unlike anything they had seen in all their study—they set off to discover its origin and purpose.

Along the way, they learned about a Savior born in Bethlehem. They didn’t know this Savior, and it certainly wasn’t theirs. When they happened upon king Herod, they asked the location of the “King of the Jews.” This star and this King certainly had no impact on them except of their desire of the unknown.

Soon, an encounter with the King of kings and Lord of lords would change their perspective. They would become truly enlightened through their newfound learning.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:9–11, KJV).

…I told you there was myrrh.

When the Magi saw the young child, Jesus, with his mother Mary, their minds were changed. He was no longer just the “King of the Jews,” but he was their King, Lord, and Savior. And for this they truly worshipped. They worshipped the One who had come to change their own lives.

We cannot worship what we don’t know and what we don’t understand. Like the Magi, we cannot call Jesus our Lord and King if He has not been revealed to us as such.

Christmas is just another Hallmark holiday when we don’t know our Savior. We can get caught up in the festivities, child-like wonder of the splendor, and be left believing the season is all about gift-giving and Santa Clause. And Christmas will only be just that until you seek out the star and come to the One who was born to us as our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).

This Christmas, don the heart and mind of the Magi—be a seeker of the King. He may be unknown to you at first, but once you find Him, you will also fall down and worship Him. With Jesus, there’s not just myrrh, but so much more! You’ll never cease to learn about all His hidden wonder.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, KJV).

Have a blessed Christmas celebrating our Savior, Jesus Christ!

The Story Behind the Good News and the Bad News

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

Matthew 1:18–21

What News First?

Bad news is never easy to receive. Most people, being aware of the forthcoming delivery of good and bad news, prefer to hear the good news first. Everyone has their own definition of good and bad news. For some people, Christmas unfortunately equates to bad news when they consider the expense, business, or a reminder of sorrow in their life.

The Bad News of Christmas

In reality, the lens of Christmas has always been “bad” from the beginning. It didn’t take our current culture to paint it in a negative light. Joseph started his “Christmas” season with bad news: he discovered his betrothed was expecting a child that wasn’t his. Additionally, he was called to travel an extensive distance to report for a census. We must remember that in spite of the bad, good news will always outweigh it especially when Jesus is involved! This is the truth Christmas preaches to us. The end is always better than the beginning (Ecclesiastes 7:8).

When Bad Appears Greater than Good

We Make Something Bad that Isn’t

The only time the bad news “appears” to be greater than the good news is when we make it into something that it isn’t. For Joseph, the circumstance surrounding the pregnancy of his fiancé, along with the census and taxation of the government, appeared to be bad news. But, he couldn’t make his situation negative; it was going to have a positive end result. For us, when we make Christmas expensive instead of economical, busyness instead of relaxation, us instead of others, we make Christmas “bad,” and the bad soon will outweigh the good.

We Try to Take Control

Circumstances become bigger and look more negative than the (positive) ending when we try to take control instead of giving it to God. Joseph could have taken matters into his own hands and put Mary away (Matthew 1:19). He could have followed his assumption that Mary had been unfaithful to him. This would have been the human way, the easy way to look at the situation. But, God appeared to Joseph in a dream and shared the truth with him. Joseph listened to the voice of God and placed his life, and Mary’s life, in the hands of the Creator. The best things we can do is to release our will and follow after what God wants for our life. It is only then will any bad news turn out positive for us at the finish line!

We Make Something About Us

Bad news will also outweigh good news when we make it about us instead of Jesus. The angel of the Lord that appeared unto Joseph identified one thing immediately in Joseph’s life: fear (Matthew 1:20). Joseph, like any normal human, feared the perception of those around him. He worried about what other people would think about the circumstances with Mary. We can’t be so focused on us and what we see. We need to look at circumstances with God’s eyes and see Him in the middle of everything. When we do this, we’ll see how the good will outweigh any bad we only see with our natural eyes, especially when they’re focused on us. Joseph was instructed to move forward with the original plan and take Mary as his wife, for she would give birth to a son who would save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Conclusion

Remember, God is always writing long stories! When He’s done writing the stories of our lives, the end will always be better than the beginning.

 

Learning Crazy

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

I’ve loved books ever since I was a child. Aside from my minimal book interaction (guarantee) each day at bedtime, we were frequenters of the public library. I adored getting lost in the towering bookshelves and scent of vanilla paper.

With the onset of writing assignments in grade school, I was introduced to encyclopedias. If you wanted to know something about anything, an encyclopedia was your go-to study tool. I was so enthralled with encyclopedias, I wanted to buy my own set someday…

Fast forward to junior high—I was exposed to larger libraries with more books, and “Ask Jeeves” even came on the scene. But, even with Mr. Jeeves, I still preferred studying and researching in good old-fashioned books. In college, I’d walk floor-to-floor filling my borrowed library cart with volume after volume. Then, I’d find a place to camp out for the day and study for hours.

I never felt I could get enough knowledge and couldn’t get my hands on enough books. Then came my introduction to the Lord and His Word.

Until the age of eighteen, I’d never really looked at the Bible as a “study” book or as the infallible Word of God. But, the Word of God, coupled with my passion for learning (and a new outlook), helped me unlock the ultimate research book. Over the years, I’ve realized I’ll never be short of study topics for as long as I live. My favorite pastime today? Not just studying and learning, but studying the Word of God.

Younger children think I have a never-end homework assignment. You laugh, but adults think my infatuation with study is a bit crazy. Sad to say, many have even told me so. As it turns out, I’m not a lone wolf:

And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad (Acts 26:24, KJV).

Paul (previously Saul) experienced a transformation on the road to Damascus. Jesus revealed Himself in a way Paul had never known. Because of this encounter, Paul set off to study and learn about the One true God in more perfect truth. He never stopped learning or teaching that newfound truth.

Because of his passion for learning the Word and sharing it with others, he found himself locked up in prison, pleading his case to King Agrippa. In the middle of his oration, Festus jeers that too much study has made Paul crazy. But Paul stood fast, kept his faith, and continued on his course just the same.

When we fall in love with the Word of God, we’ll want nothing but to spend more time in it. Constant study seems crazy to the rest of the world, but there’s nothing like the Word, or studying it. Paul would share a crucial truth with the Philippian church much later: everything else in life is worthless when compared to the infinite value of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

When I crack open my Bible and smell the pages, see highlighted passages, view personal notes scattered between verses and page margins, and feel water-stained drops where tears have fallen as the Lord’s spoken to me, my spirit is stirred.

You know what studying God’s Word has afforded me? Life, power, anointing, joy, peace, forgiveness, and so much more. I don’t care if the world defines this as crazy—I have a sound mind according to God (II Timothy 1:7). I seek to study and learn about Him so I can correctly explain the truth just like Paul (II Timothy 2:15). If this is crazy, that’s all I want to be.

If you have a thirst for learning, I challenge you to pick up the ultimate study tool to take you to depths of knowledge you’ve never known. Studying God’s Word can make you crazy—crazy about Him. Can you think of anything better? Join me, and start learning crazy today.

The Story Behind the Waiting

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Luke 2:22–32

Anticipating Christmas

Children await Christmas with great anticipation. They squeal with glee especially when seeing presents under the tree. While we lose this child-like excitement when we grow into adults, we’ve lost a few benefits that accompany such excitement. According to psychologists, waiting for something which will make our life better (even for just a moment) can make us happy and give us joy in the immediate present. Even though we’ve grown up, we still should be excited about Christmas. Why? Because we have a hope of something better with the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Remember, Christmas isn’t just a magical day and one in which we long for every year. Christmas has already come! Everything we love about Christmas can be experienced every day we live for God!

The Journey to the Temple

In Biblical times, Jewish families observed several ceremonies after a child was born: circumcision, purification, and dedication. If new boy was birthed, the child was to be circumcised on the eighth day. Then, 40 days after the birth of a son, and 80 days after a girl, the mother had to be purified. She would bring an offering to the temple to complete this purification. Lastly, the
dedication, or redemption of the first born was observed. Parents would present their first-born son in the temple within the first month of birth. This served as the acknowledgement that the child belonged to God. In our Scripture setting, this is why Mary and Joseph were at the temple following the birth of Jesus.

Waiting for Consolation

A man named Simeon was waiting at the temple for some time. We don’t know how long he waited, but Scripture tells us he was waiting on the consolation of Israel. The Greek definition of the word “consolation” means a calling upon, excitement, persuasion, and is used in cases when the Bible speaks about encouragement. In sum, Simeon was waiting for Israel to receive the answer to their salvation: their Messiah! Simeon knew that day that he wait was over, and this truth is also for us today. Christmas has already come and it will always be here. When Jesus was born, He brought the ultimate answer to our salvation with Him. He is our Messiah today, yesterday, and forever. And, He doesn’t have to come once each year to be our Savior. Our wait is over!

Salvation and Light

When Simeon looked upon Jesus, he saw 2 things: salvation and light (Luke 2:30–32). Simeon couldn’t have been more on point with what he identified in Jesus. Jesus’s very name means “into salvation,” and Scripture tells us His very essence is light (John 1:4, 8:12). The debut of Jesus brought two elements into the world that were missing in the spiritual life of the believer. We were all in need of salvation and Jesus was the perfect Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And, He was to be the light in our darkened world. In creation, God spoke light into existence and it broke through the darkness. He has created us for the same purpose, so light can live in us and define who we are (John 1:5). We cannot allow ourselves to stay in darkness; darkness will always blind us. We need to allow the light of God to be in our hearts. The light that came on Christmas made it possible for us to live a life full of light!

Led by the Spirit

Just like Simeon, if we want to understand the true meaning of Christmas, we must wait. Simeon waited in the temple for revelation and salvation. He wouldn’t see death until He saw Jesus (Luke 2:26). We must find ourselves in the house of the Lord, waiting on Him in our prayer and worship. But, Simeon didn’t just wait. He was led to do so by the Spirit’s instruction (Luke 2:27). Because He allowed the God’s Spirit to lead and guide him, he was able to find every answer he ever needed in Jesus Christ. Search out the Lord today for yourself and find your true Messiah, your Christmas, every day of the year.

Changing Clouds

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

I am a chronic allergy sufferer and dust my home as often as possible to keep the dust particles down. While in my office dusting, a ray of sun peaked through the drawn curtains and shed light into the air-activity around my effort. Dust particles—and who knows what else—invaded the air all around me. My immediate thought: I’m breathing this right now…

No matter my efforts to strategically vacuum before I dust, allowing the particles to settle, and then using a damp dust rag to catch the dust on every surface in my home, I’m still breathing it in and sneezing all over the place.

Ironically, I stumbled across an article the next day which changed my life. It talked about our exposome—a cloud of microbes that surrounds us everywhere we go (kind of like the dust particles in my home). It’s made up of millions, billions, and trillions of bacteria, yeast cells, and cell parts. As I read, my ick-level factor started to rise.

Apparently, our exposome cloud changes continually based on what we eat, where we live, who we live with (furry and non-furry family members alike), and oh-by-the-by, our genes! It’s as unique from one person to the next. And, then I read the next truth: allergy flare ups can be caused by changes in this exposome—which isn’t influenced by any amount of dusting I, or anyone else, can do.

Who knew we all walked around with our own personal weather-system, caused by what we do and who we are? Biologically and environmentally, who we are sets the tone for the life we have. But, this also impacts us spiritually. Can I see a parallel about nasty exposome particles to Scripture? Absolutely.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1–6, KJV).

Scripture tells us that when we walk according to the prince of this world—the devil—we walk in sin and disobedience. Essentially, we grab Satan’s own exposome microbes in the air and add it to our own. All that gunk and filth he emits into the air is what we start to breath and think about.

Then, it starts affecting how we live! Satan’s exposome microbes start dominating our own and we begin acting by fulfilling fleshly and worldly desires. This is the same thing that happens when my own exposome affects my allergies. A change in my own “environment cloud” causes an action—I sneeze! It’s almost unavoidable unless I start making some changes.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10, KJV).

Because our physical exposome cloud is influenced by where we go and who we’re with, our spiritual exposome is influenced, or changed, by the same things! When I start to read the Word, fast, pray, and spend time with Godly people in and out of church, those things affect my spiritual “cloud.” The more my cloud changes, the more it starts to affect what I think, say, and do every day.

I’ve got a long road ahead to changing my biological exposome, especially when a part of that plan includes me moving to the beach (where I know there aren’t any allergens). But, my—and your—spiritual exposome can change today. Let the light of the Holy Ghost shine into your light and expose what’s floating in the air around you. You’ll see what’s there, but now you know how to change that cloud.

The Story Behind the Gifts

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Matthew 2:1–2, 4–5, 8–12 // Watch Service Online

Story Basics

People all over the world like stories. It is a mode of communication proven to be a billion dollar industry. God knew this about His creation, and choose this format to share pivotal truths with the believer through His Word.

Stories have a tendency to change over time as well as our understanding of them. Just like our natural stories, stories in the Bible have been passed down, and we’ve all adopted an understanding of these stories in our mind. When it comes to the stories of Christmas, there are elements we might believe to be true but aren’t due to the lack of supporting Scripture. This is why it’s important to study the Scriptures around the Christmas story to discern what’s true.

The True Story of the Wise Men

The wise men (or Magi) were identified as men of intellect, learning, and education. The Bible gives us a glimpse of their identity, but we learn more from the history books. But, even in study we don’t know how many wise men there were. Against traditional storytelling, we know there were more than three! The wise men were led by God’s star in the east, their journey taking an underdetermined amount of time. More than likely, they journeyed for months and possibly years. They came to worship Jesus from afar, and arrived when Jesus was an unknown age. Many theologians predict Jesus was two years old or older when the wise men arrived on the scene. Finally, we know the wise men brought different types of gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Gifts

What do we know about the gifts brought by the wise men? What were their importance? Frankincense was a perfume used in tabernacle worship (Exodus 30:34). The wise men gave Jesus something historically used to worship God in the Old Testament. Gold was associated with wealth and power for royalty, specially kings. Jesus is known to us as the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Myrrh was a perfume usually applied on the dead in the burial process. This showed Jesus would suffer and die, alluding to the reason He was on the earth. Every gift provided pointed to the real gift: Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 9:15). Jesus was the ultimate gift, and One we definitely didn’t deserve (Isaiah 9:6). Do the gifts we give point back to Jesus? If not, what types of gifts should we give this Christmas?

Kinds of Gifts (and Gift-Givers)

A gift given without strings attached, a gift a sacrifice, and a gift that’s cost us something is a true gift. They’re considered “God gifts.” When we give gifts, the ultimate purpose is to give them to God: this is the true reason for giving. Someone else might be the recipient of our gift, but it’s given with the intention of giving to God. Once that gift is given, we shouldn’t be concerned about what’s happened to it. It’s been given to God to will and do His good pleasure with it!

There are different types of gifts and different types of givers. One group of givers are people who budget for giving. This is okay to a point (we want to be good stewards of our finances), but money cannot be our motive for giving. Instead giving needs to be our motive for giving gifts. Alternately, some people give gifts because they “have” to. An expectation and reputation drives their giving. This also shouldn’t drive our giving!

Instead, we need to be God-givers and give gifts that feel right and can never be repaid. Our gifts need to reflect the heart of God and how He gives (Philippians 2:7–8). Jesus became less for us so we could become more to others. Gifts need to be the best they can be to help this lost and dying world. An important lesson in giving is this: those with less still deserve the best.

Giving to the Poor

We need to treat the poor with dignity. All rich and poor are the same because we’re all created by God and deserve to be treated equally (Proverbs 22:2). We should offer the poor opportunities in our gifts. This may not always equal monetary giving, but helping them connect with resources, career pathways, mentors, and/or helping with our time. We’re also called to defend the poor and care about injustice. If we oppress the poor we insult God, but if we help them, we worship God (Proverbs 14:31). When we give any gift, the target of that gift is God (Matthew 25:33–40).

Conclusion

There are many lessons to learn when celebrating the story of Christmas. This season, make sure you ask God to help you be a Godly gift-giver. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus all the time, but especially in our gift-giving. Whatever He puts in our life is meant to be a blessing to someone else. Let’s pray God can open our eyes to better giving and that He opens a door of opportunity for giving!