Archive for January, 2019

The Packing Checklist

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

I have a packing checklist for every occasion imaginable: conferences, vacations, weekends, one-nighters, and more. It’s organized by day and evening clothes, exercise clothes (and accessories), toiletries (pre-determined by hair-washing schedules), devices, food, travel necessities, reading material, etc. It’s even complete with checkboxes so I can mark off items as they’re pulled aside to be packed. Because of these checklists, it’s rare I ever forget anything.

My packing checklists do have one unique downfall: they cause me to over-pack. Why? The times I’ve needed a unique item on a trip, I add it to the packing list for next time. I always assume I’ll need it again. But, the just-in-case list gets longer and longer and I wind up with way too much baggage. In reality, I don’t need them; I should just leave them behind and remove them from the list.

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him…And he received [the golden earrings] at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 32:1, 2, KJV).

To get you up to speed to where we are in Scripture, Israel had escaped the evil taskmasters of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and were in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. Moses had been up on Mount Sinai receiving the Law from God, and the people were tired of waiting. They cried to Aaron to make them an idol to worship and it didn’t take long for him to give in. Aaron commanded them to give him their golden earrings, melted them down, and carved a calf from the gold.

I came across this Scripture and was left with one question to ponder. Where on earth did Aaron get this graving tool? And, then it dawned on me—it came with somebody from Egypt. It made it into one of the packed bags. How? I bet it was on someone’s packing checklist; an item left on the just-in-case list.

Even when the God of all creation helped His chosen people escape Egypt, someone in the encampment of Israel thought ahead to their future—a life separated from the idols they once knew—and made a (bad) decision that a graving tool was still needed. Somewhere in the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:17), there just could be a need for an idol.

I can look at this Scripture and wonder why did they pack a graving tool? After everything God did for them, why are they bringing an element of their bondage with them?

I keep packing stuff I don’t really need repeatedly. This practice over “over-packing” can transcend into our spiritual walk. When God delivers us from our depression, addictions, fear, anxieties, etc., we still keep it on our packing checklist. Regardless of God’s promise about our future freedom, we still pack a little bit of that problem in our spiritual suitcase because we just might need it next time.

When the enemy comes in and puts a word of doubt in our ear—much like the Israelites at Mount Sinai—the just-in-case item we didn’t remove from our packing checklist somehow becomes a much-needed item once again. We get it out and land ourselves right in the middle of a mess God already delivered us from. When the graving tool was unearthed, Israel once again became idol-worshippers.

It’s time to empty out our suitcases, revamp our packing checklists, and get rid of those unneeded items. It’s okay to think ahead. It’s okay to be prepared. But, don’t let those extra items weigh you down any longer. Learn to rely on God and trust in Him to supply your every need (Philippians 4:19). Get your packing checklist pared down and enjoy your newfound lightened luggage today.

I Need Margin

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

II Kings 4:8–11 // Watch Service Online

Filling Up the Page

If we don’t create conditions in our lives to do what we’ve intended, it doesn’t matter what we “intend” because we won’t have room. When we’ve filled up our lives, we’ve lost our margin. Margin can only be reserved for the future, and can’t be made up from what’s been squandered. We miss a lot of opportunity from God because there isn’t room for Him to work in our life—we’re too full. If we’re not careful, we’ll have full lives but empty souls.

Realizing Limits

We need to realize we have limits. Moses wrote in Psalms 90:12 for God to teach us to number our days so we might apply our hearts to wisdom. We don’t have the time we think we do; we’re not promised tomorrow. Currently, we don’t have the mindset to value our days because we’re too busy spending them. When we value something, we save it!

We need to reserve our time, talents, and resources for the big things. We should look to do what God wants us to do, even though they may be the harder things (James 4:15). We like to replace God-things with good things, but good things aren’t necessarily God-things. If we’re going to be able to follow God’s will and do His Work, we need the Holy Ghost to take over and lead us. It needs to help get us away from the small things so we can make the most of our time.

Decide

We need to make decisions based on what matters in the end. If it doesn’t we need to kill something and remove it from our life. The Shunammite woman realized what was important—she sought to prepare a place for the man of God in her home. It wasn’t the man she really wanted in her house, but the presence of God that came with Him! We need to decide to seek after the things of God and press into His presence!

Make a Margin

Is God able to live where we live every day? If we let God in, He’ll change our lives and clean things up for us every time! We need to make a margin for Him to work and not be broken cisterns, letting the goodness of God run out from our lives. Make room and retain His presence, and see what blessings you’ve been missing.

Practice Repentance

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:9, KJV).

More than I’m Sorry

In our culture today, we overuse the word sorry. Due to its overuse, we’ve lost the true meaning of the word. Many times when we say, “I’m sorry,” we’re really not sorry. A true apology that makes a difference is repentance (I John 1:5–10). Repentance is more than a one-time experience that is part of our conversion to follow Jesus. It continues on for believers every day. If this isn’t a part of our Christian walk, it can’t be right with God (Revelation 2:4–5)!

Embracing Repentance

We must continue to embrace repentance because we make mistakes continually. However, we have a hard time understanding repentance because we can’t clearly define sin. Sin is to miss the mark and not receive the associated prize (Heaven). Simply, sin is falling short. We need to know that even filled with the Holy Ghost, our actions, thoughts, and behaviors don’t always meet God’s expectations. Inevitably, sin will manifest even when we’re trying to follow Him!

Sin must be dealt with (Romans 7:19). Because sin cannot stay in our lives, God gave us the gift of repentance. With Jesus’ death on the cross and shedding of His blood, He became the propitiation (atonement or payment) for our sins. Today, He continues to pay for our mistakes (I John 2:1–2). Repentance helps us focus on living for Jesus and likens unto our safety net while we practice living right for God. The cross allows us to practice our walk with the potential for failure. It’s only through practicing repentance that will make us complete.

David’s Failures

David was a man after God’s own heart. Even still, he had major failures in his life: infidelity, murder, lies, betrayal, etc. We may question how could a man after God’s own heart make such large mistakes (sins)? David knew the mercies of God and, the key to recovery, and how to respond to God’s confrontation: with repentance. It’s God’s own goodness that brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Confrontation of David’s sin didn’t bring further rebellion, but conviction and repentance. Once he repented, he wrote Psalm 51, which noted 4 attitudes that embody the heart of sincere repentance.

4 Attitudes Necessary for True Repentance

Admittance

We need to be able to acknowledge mistakes. If we’re trying to appear right before others, this drives us to be dishonest with God. Instead, we need to acknowledge our sins before God and lay them bare before Him (Psalms 51:3). David recognized his rebellion before God and took ownership of it. We can’t justify the details of our actions that focus on the motive of our sin. Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a total failure. Remember, God doesn’t ask us to get rid of our sin, but to admit it.

Apologetic

When we apologize for something, we need to have the attitude of being truly sorry. David realized he had sinned against God (Psalms 51:4). While he had affected others, he understood where the core of his sin went—it hurt God’s heart. He needed to have a broken spirit and contrite heart full of real regret (Psalms 51:17). Worldly sorrow will bring shame and guilt; however, godly sorrow is when our heart responds correctly to the convicting power of the Holy Ghost. With godly-evoked sorrow, God will bring conversion in the believer and work repentance to salvation (II Corinthians 7:10).

About-Face

We need to turn 180° from our current behavior when we sin; there must be a desire for change within us! Repentance by definition is an inward change of mind that results in an outward change. Throughout Psalms 51 David described several themes showing a need for change in attitude and actions. Godly sorrow will help us change our direction and renew our commitment to fight sin in our life. Our confidence in ourselves and in God will be restored once we repent. He will help us begin our journey in a new direction!

Wasteless

Repentance fostered a realization in David: he didn’t want to “waste” or “miss” the lesson. Our mistakes will cost us something and we can’t act like they never happen; we must learn from them. If we try to forget them, we run the risk of making the same mistakes again. Sins are forgiven, but our mistakes will have consequences. David experienced the grace of forgiveness even though he had to suffer the consequences. In his situation, he lost his child. Because of this, David decided he would teach others God’s ways and help them learn from his mistakes (II Samuel 2:7–14). He became more careful in how he lived his life in the future so he didn’t do the same thing again. He modeled a changed life for us.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on January 23, 2019 with Pastor Nave

The Short Way, Long Way, or Right Way

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Every time my husband and I climb into the car for elongated travel, we enter into a slight debate: set the GPS to take the shortest distance or the fastest time. At first blush, it may appear that our deliberation is over a slight nuance, but the two options are as different as night and day.

Shortest distance is truly that—the fewest miles between point A and point B. In our experience, this equates to taking back roads, trolling through un-mapped small towns, and taking in a more scenic landscape. But the shortest distance absolutely does not equate to a fast trip. Going through small towns means fighting constant speed limit changes, sometimes dropping down to 15 miles per hour to navigate through a town square (why?), bumpy roads, and randomness I can’t explain in a blog post. In short, I like to call this the “long way.”

On the other hand, the fastest time pretty much keeps you on the highway or interstate, and you’re to your destination typically 30 minutes or sometimes hours faster. But, the highway has a lot of concrete, industrial buildings, and less-than desirable scenery. That’s “boring” according to my husband. So, he votes for shortest distance. I vote for fastest time. And, this transpires every…single…trip.

And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 13:17–18, KJV).

When God’s chosen people were freed from Egypt, they didn’t have GPS to lead the way; they had Moses. Two routes were ahead of them: 1) the shortest distance—through the land of the Philistines or 2) the fastest time—through the way of the wilderness, albeit a longer distance.

You might be thinking, hold on there, now! The GPS shortest time and fastest time conversions can’t be used here. Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness going with option 2. That didn’t really get them from point A to point B as fast as they possibly could go! But I think it was the fastest route, and here’s why.

God knew the spiritual state of his people after spending 400 years in bondage. They were a little leery of Moses coming in after being MIA for 40 years and foretelling God’s plan for deliverance. By the time they headed out of Egypt, their faith in God was quite shaky. Therefore, there was no way God was arranging a meet-cute with the Philistines on their journey. They would have been scared, scared, and hightailed it back to Egypt.

If you think Israel would have only stayed in Egypt for a few days after a Philistine-scare, think again. They (and future generations) would have remained hundreds of years or even the rest of their lives. Even though it was God’s perfect will for Israel to take a slightly longer-distanced journey to the Promised Land, He knew they’d ultimately spend 40 years in the wilderness. But, that was a better option than spending eternity in bondage to cruel task-masters.

In our spiritual walk, taking the shortest distance may seem to be the right path. We see the finish line and want to get there as quickly as possible, but God may want us to take a different route that actually will get us there pretty fast—or at least faster than what’s deemed as the “shortest” distance. It’s hard to accept that the “fastest route” might be a little boring or may seem more difficult at times when you get stuck in a construction zone that never ends, but God knows best, so let Him lead you.

Here’s the final lesson: I’m not saying fastest is always right. Whether you take the shortest distance or the fastest time, it’s important to know that you’re going the way God’s leading you. It’s not up to a GPS, and it wasn’t up to Moses. It’s always up to God to lead you the right way. If you follow God’s direction, I promise you’ll end up at the right destination soon enough, and better yet, at the right time.

I Need Power

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:29–31, KJV).

Waiting on the World or Waiting on God

We have so much more today than we did hundreds of years ago. Even still, mankind is no better off. In fact, the hearts of man are becoming worse and worse and strong youths are becoming weak. Isaiah reminds us that no matter how strong we are mentally or physically, we will become weak. No matter how hard we try, we will find failure.

But, there is a difference between those who wait on the Lord and those who just “exist” in this life. What has the ability to plague us can’t anymore when we’re in the presence of the Lord! The word “wait” means to expect, look for, and hope in Him. When we’re without God it’s different than when we’re with God. When Jesus is on our side there’s no weapon that’s formed against us that can prosper.

Jesus didn’t just come to treat our symptoms or just the “result” of the sin in our life. He is the Great Physician; He came to completely change us. His one main plan for our lives is to change us to be like Him. If we’re in Christ, we’re a new creature; all things are passed away and all things become new.

The Promise of Power

Power was promised to God’s people all throughout Scripture. Jesus told His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem so they would be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). Once they received the power of the Holy Ghost, they would become witnesses for Him all throughout the world (Acts 1:8). Paul said he would glory in his infirmities so the power of Christ could rest on Him. The bottom line: we need more of the Holy Ghost. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he preached the necessity of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). If we expect and look for the power of the Holy Ghost, we will receive strength and power in our lives!

When Jesus met the woman at the well, He told her if she drank of His living water, she would never thirst again. We must drink of His water, His power, and His Holy Ghost and we will be changed. We’ll have those rivers flowing from us (John 7:38)!

Stir Up the Power

It’s not enough just to have the Holy Ghost. We need to stir it up (II Timothy 1:6). When we find ourselves distraught or in the middle of a situation, we can’t look for answers or peace in the world. Our answer is not in anything else but in more of the Holy Ghost!  We’ve got it in us, we just need to stir it up! Paul encouraged the church to fan the flame of the Holy Ghost and keep it going. We can’t let it die. If we stir up the gift in us, it just might stir up the gift in someone else.

We need more power because Jesus says we need more. We need more power because there’s more that Jesus wants to give us! Most of us limit what the Spirit does in our lives because we we can’t envision it. But Scripture tells us Jesus is able to do abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20)! Be encouraged today and get the fire of the Holy Ghost moving in your life.

Power to Go

We will never accomplish spiritual efforts with fleshly means. Isaiah warns that the most powerful, the most energetic people will naturally fall. When Moses was growing up in the palace of Pharaoh, he killed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and buried him in the sand. He acted out of his own motives and wound up fleeing as a fugitive. In the backside of the desert, he could have been dismissive of himself thinking he messed up and he couldn’t do anything for God. But, he had to come in contact with the fire (Exodus 3:1–4). Once he encountered God at the burning bush, he was given power and authority to go back to Egypt and lead the deliverance of God’s chosen people. He would not go alone—God would go with Him.

We can be tired in our human strength, lack ability in our human capability, but God will send the power. He will equip us to go and conquer every trial in this life. Let’s pray today that God helps us see after the power, seek after the fire.

Practicing Faith

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:9, KJV).

What’s Faith

Faith is trust, confidence in, and assurance in something. For the Christian, we have faith in God, which is a foundational aspect to our walk with God. It’s the means by which we learn to respond, relate, and receive from God. We are told in Scripture that faith is of absolute importance. Jesus even demonstrated this fact in His own ministry. We see numerous examples where Jesus performed miracles in some places due to their faith. Just like any other Christian discipline, faith must be practiced.

Practicing Faith is More Than…

Words

Faith is going to be more than just what we say (James 2:14). If we hang around the church long enough, we can start to learn how to say the right things. We can become pretty good at going through the motions: saying what others say but not meaning them at all. We can’t do this with our faith! Faith must be put into action. Jesus warned His disciples of this when He explained that in the end times, people will cry unto Him to enter heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father will make it (Matthew 7:21)!

Feelings

We can’t base our faith on our emotions because our feelings are fickle. Part of our walk with God will be comprised of feeling God, but we can be emotional and moved by Him in a church service but never act on what we feel. Scripture tells us that if we “wish” something and don’t follow up with action, it isn’t worth anything (James 2:15).

Believing

We can believe in a lot of things, especially God, but faith is much more than belief. Belief is not enough because even if we choose to believe in God, the demons already do and they tremble (James 2:19). Devils understand the majesty and awesomeness of God, but they are no closer to being saved in their belief than we are if we only believe. We must do more than agree in the existence in God; faith is demonstrated by our actions. Our behavior will show what we really believe (James 2:17–18).

The Summation of Faith

Faith is saying, feeling, and acting on what we believe God for. It’s not that we shouldn’t feel faith, speak in faith, or believe, but theses alone are insufficient. They only become valuable when an action accompanies them. Our faith is the assurance of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we don’t see (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is what we can see in the spiritual that we can’t see physically. In Scripture, Abraham’s faith was mixed with works. It was only at this point was his faith made perfect (James 2:20–24). Remember, our faith is not determined by what we do but demonstrated by what we do.

We Practice Faith When We…

Give Correctly

By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice to God than his brother Cain (Hebrews 11:4). How did Abel know the right sacrifice to bring? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that he had enough insight in God—and faith—that he was moved to bring the right sacrifice. Sometimes exercising our faith by giving allows God to work through us. He will teach us how to give the proper offering to Him and to others.

Live to Please God

Because of faith, Enoch was translated so he wouldn’t see death; he pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). Enoch used pleasing God not just as a filter, but made it into a lifestyle. He didn’t act on his own accord and then check with God afterward. He literally lived to please God; his own will was dead. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.

Give Up What We Want to Keep

Abraham was tried and offered up his only son to God. He had faith God would raise him up again from the dead (Hebrews 11:17–19). Abraham understood that Isaac was given to him as a promise of the future. Therefore, he knew that even if he gave him up, God’s promise would still be executed through Isaac’s seed. In our walk with God, not everything is “addition.” Scripture tells us that walking with God is about gaining and sometimes about losing. But, faith is about understanding that no matter what we gain or lose in this life, the promise is still ours to keep!

Live Out Our Trust in What God has Promised Us

When Joseph died in Egypt, he gave a commandment concerning the promise of Israel (Hebrews 11:22). He knew the people would survive famine and bondage and God would deliver them to the Promised Land. He had so much faith in this promise that he didn’t want to be buried, but wanted to be placed in a coffin so his bones could later be taken with the people. Like Joseph, we should make decisions in alignment with our belief in the promise of the Word of God!

Choose to Suffer for What’s Right Instead of Compromising for What’s Wrong

Moses refused to be called the Pharaoh’s daughter but instead chose to suffer affliction with the people of God (Hebrews 11:24–27). By faith, he forsook Egypt and was consistent and endured for the Lord. His example of faithfulness and standing up for truth is one we should practice in our own faith-walk with with God. At some point, if we have not already, we’ll need to make a stand for God. The truth will divide us!

Allow Ourselves to be Used by God

There were many faithful men of God throughout Scriptures. Because of their faith they subdued kingdoms, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, etc. (Hebrews 11:32–34). Their faith was practiced and increased all because they all wanted to be used for the will of God. If we allow ourselves to be a conduit for His presence, and truly be His hands and feet, we’ll see faith activated and practiced in our life. We’ll see great moves of God because of it!

Trust God’s Answer and God’s Timing

There were great heroes of faith in the Bible, but they didn’t see their promises come to pass in their lifetime. They all died before they happened (Hebrews 11:39). When we take a moment to think about their walk with God, they spent their whole life practicing faith. Could we do the same? Could we practice faith our entire life without ever getting an answer? Since our patriarchs of faith have set the example of practicing faith, we need to do the same in our life. Answer our no, our final authority is belief in prayer that God will answer and will answer in His right time. We must ultimately submit to His will (I John 5:14–15).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on January 16, 2019 with Pastor Nave

The Mud-Struggler

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

In sixth grade, my class participated in a Lake Education Association Program (LEAP). Its mission was to increase awareness and education about the wetlands coupled with efforts to save and protect them.

To cover the “learning” part of LEAP, my class took a field trip to the closest wetland location to collect soil samples and plant specimens. Lolloping through the marshy environment, my eager classmates and I were given one strict instruction: don’t go too close to the riverbank. Wetland is exactly as the name implies: the ground is wet and isn’t 100% solid.

Thirty minutes later, I was coming to the groundbreaking conclusion that all mud was the same color (even three feet deep into the ground). But, my reverie was interrupted when I heard a forlorn wail. I whirled around to see one of my classmates sunk chest-deep into the mud.

Wide-eyed I watched as chaperones desperately tried to save the child. The ground wouldn’t bare the weight of a rescuer; there wasn’t a clear path to retrieve her from the muddy prison. In shear panic, she flailed her arms, struggling desperately against the wet soil, but her struggle was to no avail—she sunk deeper into the mud.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (I Peter 5:7, KVJ).

Scripture tells us to cast all of our cares upon God. But, what’s exactly a care and what does it mean to cast them? According to the Greek, a care (merimna) is a worry, anxiety, or anything you care about or are concerned with. And, the process of casting (epiriptó) is throwing away or throwing off those cares on God. Why does He tell us to do this? Because He cares for us and about the things that happen to us. God’s going to take care of anything we need; we don’t need to think or worry about it.

My classmate had a pretty big care that day—she was stuck in the mud. According to this Scripture, she should have cast that concern (or care) upon God because there was no way she was getting out of the mud single-handedly. However, she tried to take ownership of her care. She began to struggle, but this only worsened the situation. She sank deeper into the mud, past her chest and up to her chin.

It might not be mud for you, but we all have something we care about. I’m not only talking about the financial hardships, broken marriages, health issues, or emotional distress you might be facing today. You might (and hopefully) care about your family, wonder when you’ll have time to get groceries, the presentation at work, your homework assignment, or something else; you fill in the blank. We all have something that we care for or towards.

Caring about things isn’t wrong. We step into the realm of sin when we don’t cast (throw off or throw away) those cares to God; we decide to follow own will and care for or worry about them (Matthew 7:21).

When we don’t cast, we’re like my classmate. Whether we’ve realized it or not, we’ve stepped too close to the riverbank, have sunk into the mud, and keep struggling (caring for something) God never intended for us to mess with. And, in taking matters (cares) into our own hands, we make a mess of things, get stuck, and then wonder why we’re cast down, unable to find peace, burdened, sick, tired, etc.

It’s only when we cast off our care unto God and stand still, will we see our salvation (Exodus 14:13). This may come in the form of deliverance, peace, or rest for you, but ultimately it frees us up to care about our Father’s Kingdom—His purpose, plan, and vision (Philippians 4:9). I’d rather care for those things, wouldn’t you?

My classmate was freed from the mud just a short while afterward. She made it out before the mud went over her head, and was back to her original purpose: exploring the wetlands. Don’t be a mud-struggler today and lose sight of what God has instructed you to do. Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you, and redirect your focus toward what God has in store for you today.

I Need Focus

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son…But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these. And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol (Judges 13:2–3, 23–25, KJV).

Distracted Focus

Distraction is very powerful. It can make our break our performance, influence our jobs, cause divorce in the home, impact friendships, etc. We need to be aware of how distraction can seep into our lives and how it can influence us.

Samson and His Distractions

Samson was the poster-child of distraction. He lived after what he wanted instead of what he needed. Scripture tells us God’s Spirit moved upon him at times—but not when Samson was distracted. When he wasn’t distracted, God anointed him to do supernatural works. But, Samson continued to give in to worldly distractions of food, women, and anything else he desired all throughout his life.

Not Getting Distracted

If we’re going to conquer distraction in our life, we can’t do this on our own. We need the presence of God (the Holy Ghost) working inside of us. Each day we live should be comprised of stopping and checking in with God: where does He want us to move; what does He want us to do? He needs to be our focus and He needs to direct our focus. When He sets our focus, and we have His Spirit living inside of us, we will have a really hard time getting distracted!

What We Shouldn’t Focus On

Up front, there are things we shouldn’t focus on. We don’t need the Holy Ghost to tell us this, as Scripture has a very clear outline. The Word of God admonishes us not to put anything wicked before our eyes (Psalms 101:3) and to keep our eyes straight ahead (Proverbs 4:25). Paul encouraged to church to command every thought to the obedience of the God (II Corinthians 10:5) and to think on good things (Philippians 4:8). If we can’t see Jesus looking at the same thing, we shouldn’t be looking at it!

Focus on the Right Priorities

Things will come into focus when God is our center and He helps to set the right priorities. Jesus instructed His disciples to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:33). We’re too busy most of the time trying to circumvent the will of God in our life and getting distracted from what really matters. We must surrender to Him and allow Him to re-focus our life.

We Reap What We Sow

Today, we need to start over with God and allow Him to reset our priorities and our focus. We must ask ourselves: what are we aiming for in life? What are we planting and reaping? What’s our true focus? If we sow in righteousness we’ll reap mercy (Hosea 10:12), but if we sow wickedness, we’ll reap the same (Job 4:8; Galatians 6:7). Don’t let wrong priorities and the wrong focus get you in the wrong place! Let’s get re-focused in God today.

Practice Has Purpose

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:9, KJV).

The Purpose of Our Practice

In our walk with God, we’re commanded to exercise godliness. No matter what we do, we must maintain our walk with God and train ourselves to be like Him (I Timothy 4:7-9). The Christian concept of training and discipline is not like an athlete’s. Prayer is our exercise; reading the Word of God is our discipline. Spiritual training activities all help us move closer to our ultimate destination—godliness.

To be godly, we live like God wants us to live: think the way He wants us to think; act the way He wants us to act; work the way He wants us to work; raise our children the way He wants us to raise them. This all plays into our training and practice, which is useful in every area of our life. It holds a promise to us in our present life and the life to come.

Our View of Practice

Without a purpose, our practice is meaningless. If we don’t have a reason or focus, practice can become a ritual, mundane, or ritualistic. This can create a skewed vision of Jesus and our relationship with Him. It’s important to remember; however, that while we can become overwhelmed by the duty of practice, we’re re-energized with purpose. When we face day-to-day challenges and other trials on a regular basis, we don’t need to feel cast down or burdened. Paul noted in his trials, he kept focusing on the purpose of his practice (trials), which was to allow the life of Jesus to be evident. Our body must die (through practice) so Jesus can be manifested (II Corinthians 4:11). We must see spiritual disciplines and practice as a means to our life and not an end.

Practice Prepares Us

Any present inconvenience is always worth the future result when it comes to spiritual discipline. What we give now will be worth what we get later. When we pray, read the Word, and fast, sometimes it doesn’t “feel” like it’s helping us, but it really is. Paul told the church to keep looking forward as he noted the sufferings of this present time aren’t worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

What Practices Prepares You For

Practice Studying the Word Prepares Us to Apply It

When we study the Word of God, we will have answers when we need them. As we live our day-to-day lives, we need to think and act in accordance with God. In the moment, we need stored-up knowledge from the Word of God to make godly decisions. This is why Paul admonished Timothy to study to show himself approved unto God (II Timothy 2:15). The Psalmist hid the Word of God in his heart so he wouldn’t sin (Psalms 119:11). The Word (hid in our hearts through previous study) can help us stay in godly practice. Remember, the Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths (Psalms 110:105).

Practice Worship Prepares Us for Intimacy with God

Worship should invade the life of every believer. Church services are ideal times to practice our worship to God to help transform the rest of our lives into an act of constant worship to the King of kings and Lord of lords. We’re commanded in Scripture to bless and praise the Lord at all times (Psalms 34:1). Because of this point, every service becomes a training session to worship and draw closer to the presence of God. This is ultimately the purpose of our worship—closeness and intimacy with Him. We cannot go through the motions in our worship. We must remember who we’re worshipping and who we’re trying to develop a relationship with. It’s the God of the universe Who knows our name and wants an up-close, personal relationship with us.

Practice Prayer Prepares Us to Hear from God

Best friends communicate with each other all of the time. We desire to hear from one another and find it difficult to go without speaking. The same holds true for our relationship with God, who is the greatest Friend we’ll ever have. We cannot go lengths of time without communicating with Him. Our avenue for communication is through prayer. This is why Scripture tells us that our prayer is God’s delight (Proverbs 15:8). He will always hear the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:16), and our effectual prayers avail much (James 5:16). When we take time to pray and talk with God, He’ll talk back. The more we pray, the more familiar we become with His voice, and the easier it will become to hear Him. We may not be the best at prayer, knowing the right things to say, but the more we practice the easier it will becomes and the better we’ll be at it!

Practice Fasting Prepares Us for Spiritual Insight, Clarity, and Authority

Scripture tells us that fasting humbles the soul (Psalms 35:13Psalms 69:10). To most, fasting is the most unwelcome spiritual practice for the human flesh, but the hardest discipline is the one with the greatest results. In Scripture, Daniel modeled a life of fasting. At the end of his 21-day fast, God sent him a vision which provided revelation and insight (Daniel 10:1–3). It could not have come unless Daniel practiced fasting in his spiritual regimen. Scripture also teaches that when we fast, we can have spiritual authority when we need it. Some things won’t go out (or be accomplished) except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).

Practice Fellowship Prepares Us for Times When We Need Spiritual Support

God desires for His people fellowship with one another. One of the purposes of the church is to lift up and edify the members of the Body of Christ. However, fellowship with the church is more than being in the same room with people. It’s the spiritual result of the Holy Ghost working in our lives. The early church convened in fellowship with each other without instruction and saw great growth to the church (Acts 2:41–42). But, not only that, they built a strong network/community of faith and support. When we fellowship with the church, we share ourselves with our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we share and support others, the church will be there to support us when we need it in the future.

Spiritual Training Can Get Lost in Transition

In the process of practicing, we can’t make practice the competition. As we transition from the old man into the new man, we must watch out so we don’t get lost. Spiritual training isn’t done so we can become professional spiritual trainers but so that we become godly. Spiritual training transitions a fleshly person to a godly person. Let’s not get so caught up in spiritual disciplines that we forget the ultimate purpose of those disciplines.

Scripture gives us an example of a Pharisee who got too caught up in spiritual disciplines and lost sight of the true purpose. When he came to pray at the temple, he focused on thanking God for his righteousness in comparison to the publican (tax collector) who also came (Luke 18:10–14). He had lost focus of what living for God was all about. When spiritual discipline becomes more about us than God, it is dangerous for our souls. Humility is the only thing that will keep us close to Jesus in practicing our walk with Him. The publican was aware of the great distance between himself and God. When we view our spiritual status in comparison to Jesus only, we will keep the correct focus of our spiritual training and disciplines. While the Pharisee heard the call of competition, the publican heard the call of Jesus.

Closing

Paul ended his discourse to Timothy stating a pivotal truth: this saying was worthy of all acceptation (I Timothy 4:9). The instructions he gave for spiritual training and practice work; they work for everyone and they apply to everyone. Let’s desire to practice together and practice on purpose.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on January 9, 2019 with Pastor Nave

My Personal Lion

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

I can’t remember all the details of my first encounter, but I do recall the softness of the fur, how it felt between my fingers, the sweetness of a tiny wet nose nuzzled next to my ear, and the calming low vibration of its purr. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but the one exception I provide allowance for in my life was when I first gazed upon a tiny kitten. I was in love, and I wanted my own.

There were two roadblocks standing in my way of possessing a kitten—hurdle one, I was allergic (slight problem); hurdle two, my parents said no (big problem).

And, so my fondness of felines continued as I grew. When visiting the home of a cat-owner, I’d gingerly seek out the animal and coax it into my open, loving arms. Being an admirer from afar wasn’t good enough for me, I needed an up-close and personal experience. Kitten, lynx, tiger, lion, cougar…it didn’t matter (okay, some of them are slightly scary); I wanted a cat of my own.

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof (Revelation 5:5, KJV).

In prayer one day, the Lord brought the image of a precious kitten to mind. I remembered my early dreams of having my own, personal cat as a pet. It evoked a desire in me once again for closeness and personal relationship. Then, the kitten morphed into a lion, and this Scripture flooded my mind. Almost through the purr of the lion, the Lord was ministering to me and revealing a precious truth.

Through this imagery, God conveyed Himself to be my personal God and my personal Lion. As such, I must seek to know and worship Him personally. He, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, just isn’t any Lion; He’s my Lion.

The same holds true for all of us. We cannot worship God as a foreign, far-off entity that’s untouchable and impersonal. He dwells within us through the infilling of His Spirit. As our personal God, He becomes to us what we know Him to be: Our own Lion.

As my Lion, God is my brave and mighty hero who will fight every battle. He’s a pillar of strength in my life in every situation. He stands as my source of courage to me keep fighting the darkness of this world. And, it shows Him as the sovereign Lord of my life: He has supreme authority and control! What God as my Lion can be for me, He can also be for you!

I was blessed at a point in my pre-teen years to adopt a stray cat wandering the neighborhood. I was given the opportunity to love, care for, and know a majestic mouser personally. But, even if I hadn’t experienced this in the natural, I have been given the privilege of a feline friendship in the spiritual.

God is much more than a pet and care-free kitten, He’s the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

If you don’t know God as your personal Lion today, I encourage you to seek Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you as such. You don’t need to become an animal-lover, or even a cat-fanatic! See in Him what He wants to be for you—a personal God, a personal Savior, and a personal friend.

The Me I Need to Be

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Jeremiah:29:4–13 // Watch Service

Wants vs. Needs

The concept of want fights the concept of need in our world. This is why bad decisions are made, wars are fought, we have problems in our relationships, etc. There is a difference between want and need, but we don’t necessarily understand what this is; the line has become blurred for us. The real truth is that we’re turning wants into needs in our day-to-day lives.

God Knows our Need

In our Scripture setting, Jeremiah tells us about our wants and desires. He notes our heart is deceptive and not to trust it. There’s a way that seems right to man but the end is death (Proverbs 14:12). It’s not what we want to be that matters but what we need to be. We should turn to God to understand this concept; He is the only One who truly knows our needs. As we start this new year, we should understand our pathway has already been carved out for 2019. Our job is to figure out what this is!

The Plan (Need) Revealed

God’s people were taken into captivity into the Babylonian empire at this point in Scripture. It wasn’t in their plan and they were having a difficult time. During their captivity, God spends them a specific Word. While being taken from their homeland wasn’t in their plans, God tells them to trust Him. In captivity, God tells them to build houses, plant crops, get married, have children, etc. They didn’t realize they were right in the middle of God’s plan for their life. It was God’s will they stay in captivity for 70 years. We don’t see the big plan—God has the only true picture of what should happen in our life! Are we brave enough to let go of what seems right to us and embrace everything God wants for us? It’s going to take effort on our part to make God’s plan come to fruition in our life and bring Him glory (Psalms 37:23; Proverbs 16:9; Job 23:11). It’s only when we follow His plan can we be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Boundaries Help

If we’re going to follow God’s perfect plan for our life, we need to realize and operate within the boundaries God’s set up. Prayer and reading God’s Word will be the avenues in which God reveals those boundaries to us. But, how does this help? In trying to determine what we should be doing (or who we need to be), it’s sometimes easier to figure out what we shouldn’t be doing.  If we find the inverse, this helps us to see the boundaries of where God will and won’t work in our lives. Boundaries will help us understand the vision God has for our future. If we’re doing something that isn’t God’s will, we need to find an altar of repentance. Sin, if left to abide in our life, will lead us into developing the wrong plans. We need boundaries and we need to know God’s will for our life!

Brokenness Brings the Right Need

When we’ve repented and sought after the boundaries of God’s will, we’ll find ourselves in a broken state. It may seem like our life is in pieces and we’re not sure what to do. But, it’s in our brokenness that God is able to work. He’s able to change us into a new creature in Christ. He will put the broken pieces of our life back together so they align with His perfect plan and His perfect way. This is God’s healing process and we must ask for it! When we ask to be healed, God will heal us (Jeremiah 17:14). This is our promise just as it was to Israel. God told Israel if they would allow His plan to be executed in their brokenness, He would bring them back together (Jeremiah 29:14). If we allow God’s plan to manifest in our life, He will bring us back together into one piece and pour out His blessings upon us.

Practice Makes Perfect

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:9, KJV).

Strive for Mastery

According to our key verse, we’re told to practice what God’s Word instructs us to do. Godly practice (living for Him) must occur over and over again and continue to improve as we live each day. Paul even says that we need to strive for mastery in our manner of living for God (I Corinthians 9:25). If athletes devote themselves to become disciplined in their sport, how much more should we as Christians practice and become disciplined or proficient in our walk with God?

Always in Practice

Until we reach Heaven, we’re all practicing daily. We practice ministry, faith, spiritual responsibility, accountability, etc. If we’re going to be a strong Christian, or a strong body of Christians, we can’t forget to practice the even basic, fundamental things. It’s when we take care of practicing (doing) basic Christian principles (e.g., prayer, fasting, reading the Word), they will take care of us. Let it be said that we won’t fall away from living for God if we ensure that we’re practicing the basics daily; you can’t backslide praying every day!

Growing Together

While we all can practice our Christian walk individually, we need to practice discipleship together as a church. It’s important for us (the body of Christ) to grow together. Our culture teaches us to view things individually, but we need to pursue community instead in the Kingdom of God. The early church practiced community as their primary nature (they didn’t wait for special events, special needs, etc.). They learned together, grew together, and supported one another daily. If we search the Scriptures, we’ll find that discipleship happens together.

Scripture teaches that God instituted and gave the five-fold ministry to equip the Saints for the working of the ministry until everyone has matured in Christ (Ephesians 4:11–12, 16). There are more supporting Scriptures for how the entire church should be maturing together instead of individually.  When God brings people together they’re meant to grow together (Hebrews 10:25). The growth of one disciple should inspire and provoke another to do the same!

The Spirit Add Us

When God poured out the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4), He gave it to add us to His body. When the church was established on Pentecost, from there God added to the church daily (Acts 2:46–47). The Holy Ghost was meant to be a community experience! When the disciples were called, they weren’t alone. After the Holy Ghost came, they all ministered together. It’s this ministry that should be both supported and made accountable by fellow disciples (Philippians 1:27). We must strive side-by-side for the Gospel!

Contribute to Growth

Growing together in Christ is a give-and take proposition: growth for us and growth for the church. We should want to be a part of the church so we can contribute as much as we can (Romans 1:11–12). We can’t view church activities only as what it means for us. What can we contribute to impact someone else? Early followers accepted the “together” nature of discipleship and realized it took everyone pitching in (Acts 2:44–45). Our discipleship in growth and community will extend beyond a given day or given location; it’s all about how we live daily (Acts 2:46). Remember, in God’s Kingdom, we come together to see what we can contribute.

Accountability and Faith

Growing together allows accountability to disciples which in turn unifies our faith. We cannot forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). When we make ourselves accountable to others, we listen to others as well as encourage. We can help to measure the atmosphere of a circumstance and provide common ground and support for someone else.

God’s drawn to people who are together (Matthew 18:20). When we grow with a group of disciples, this will bring heightened awareness of our own spiritual need. Conviction comes swiftly upon communities (Acts 2:37); He makes us more aware of our unrighteousness. Human nature has a tendency to fear conviction; therefore, instead of embracing the body we try to isolate ourselves. But, we need to be available and in His presence so we can be mended and healed. We get the help we need in the house of God and with the people of God to continue on(Acts 2:42)!

Conflicts to Growing Together

There are three things that keeps a church from growing together: 1) lack of love, 2) distraction from overall direction and purpose, and 3) a basic lack of spirit-led behavior. Growth happens in the culture of God’s love that we have one for another (Ephesians 4:16). God will not trust vulnerable souls to a vulnerable body. We need a strong body for souls to be added. Let’s grow and practice our Christian walk together!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on January 2, 2019 with Pastor Nave

The Candle Journey

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

I claimed it was my entire life, but realistically it was only as far back as I could remember. Traveling yearly to visit relatives in Richmond, Indiana, I’d gaze out the window at all the places we’d never stop. Our goal was to get from A to B without detours or any/elongated bathroom breaks.

Close to the end of our journey, there was a majestic candle store on the right-hand side of the road. Outside, it had the largest candle I’d ever seen topped with a bright yellow flame. What would it be like to see it up-close and in-person? It was for that reason I had always wanted to visit what our family would dub the “candle place.”

Fast forward to a measly 2 years ago. I was on a business trip to Columbus, OH, traveling down the same I-70 East, with 2 other colleagues in the car. The same awe and excitement sprung across my face as I stopped mid-sentence and gazed out the window. Confused, my colleagues turned to see the quickly approaching candle. I sputtered something about having never been my entire life…

Before I knew it, the rental car was screeching off the interstate heading toward the “candle place.” My co-worker proclaimed a detour and sped (literally) toward the entrance to the candle outlet store.

When we arrived, I got out of the car, and stood before the impressive structure. I was standing in a place I never thought I’d be. After longing for years (and years) my dream had come true. I had imagined this moment over and over again, but nothing could have prepared me for the real experience. The moment I stepped inside, the store was more spectacular than I’d ever hoped it could be.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (II Corinthians 4:18, KJV).

Our Christian journey is kind of like my “candle place” voyage. The store (and yes, I realize it’s just a store) was something I only had glimpses of year after year. In my mind’s eye, I looked at (and hoped) what it could be. With just a glimpse, it was a landmark I long desired to see.

God tells us to seek and hope for the things which are above (Colossians 3:1–2) and to lay up our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19–20). Occasionally we see glimpses of glory on earth; it’s just enough to keep us longing for Heaven.

If Heaven is our ultimate destination, and we truly long for it day-by-day and year-after-year, we can’t just earnestly hope to eventually visit the Promise Land. If we’re not careful, we’ll allow ourselves to watch Heaven approach out the window of our busy lives without being intentional in making it an official stopping place. We need to ensure our vehicle makes it to those pearly gates!

We’ve just begun a New Year, and it’s time to get with God and make a plan. Let God guide your journey toward the right roads, right people, and right places. Allow God’s will to manifest in your life to ensure you’ve got Heaven on your roadmap. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can make it!

And the best part? When we finally exit our corruptible body, Heaven won’t be like anything we could have imagined with our earthly minds. We’ll be in an awe-like wonder for all eternity. (It will even be better than my “candle place.”) Starting now, have a desire to make it. Even if you have to wait your entire life, the Promise Land will be well worth the wait.