Archive for May, 2019

The Home Stretch

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Our Race

In our walk with God, we’re in a race to the finish line, which is our salvation. Like any race, the last stretch will be the hardest. Even though the race is hard, and wrought with much difficulty, we still have hope we’ll make it to the finish line! This study will take a look at the last course of our spiritual journey, known as the home stretch.

The 10 Virgins

Jesus tells a parable about 10 virgins in Matthew 25—5 wise and 5 foolish. Five virgins took extra oil for their lamps and 5 did not. The 5 that didn’t take extra oil weren’t ready, and missed out on the coming of the Bridegroom. The difference between being wise and unwise was the oil. The virgins in this parable were symbolic of church believers and our readiness to see the King when He comes. Five (exactly half) of the virgins initially had oil, but  lost it in the end, and therefore, lost their salvation. At the close of the parable, Jesus told the foolish virgins He knew them not (revealing He once had a relationship with them).

The parable conveys the urgency to the church of being ready in the last days (which is now) before the coming of the Lord. What’s confounding to us when we look at people in the church, is that many will fall away right before His return. Even though the Antichrist will “wear out” the saints (Daniel 7:25) and contribute to this falling away, there are other factors at play. Those who let their oil run out (become affected by the cares and pressures of this life) will lose their connection with the Lord. As pressures surmount, the oil will leak out. We must keep our oil in the home stretch of this race!

The 4 Soils

Jesus conveys the importance of our salvation in another parable about 4 types of soil. In this instance, Jesus reveals the interpretation (Matthew 13):

  • The first seed fell to the wayside and the fowls ate it. This represents people who allowed the enemy come in and steal the Word from them
  • The second seed fell on stony places and didn’t have any roots or deepness. These people received the Word gladly, but persecution came and they became offended and forsook their relationship with the Lord. These people are likened unto the 5 foolish virgins
  • The third seed fell on thorny soil and thorns choked their growth. These people are likened unto those who don’t abide in the vine, are unfruitful, and are cast into the fire (John 15)
  • The fourth seed fell on good soil and bore fruit. These individuals received the Word of God and flourished in their walk with Christ! These are likened unto the 5 wise virgins

If we fail from now until the rapture in our Spiritual journey, we’ll either be 1) offended or 2) distracted by the cares of this world. The 10 virgins all knew Christ, all were living in the last days, but 5 let their oil run out. They became either sidetracked or offended.

What We Need to Guard

If we’re going to stay on the home stretch, we need to guard our heart (emotions), mind (thoughts), mouth, and love for money.

Our Heart

The word heart shows up 884 times in Scripture. There are different kinds of hearts: proud, lowly, heavy, broken, hard, etc. We need to have a meek and soft heart in our journey with Him (Psalms 51:10–11). Guarding our heart (emotions) is critical because drives our actions in life (Proverbs 4:23). Instead of letting our heart run wild, we’re called to set our heart (affections) on things above (Colossians 3:1–6).  It’s important to trust in God with our whole heart and lean not unto our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Our Mind

The word mind appears 132 times in Scripture. It’s imperative we keep our mind in check and in alignment with the Spirit. If we’re after the flesh, we’ll only seek the fleshly things. We need to seek after the Spirit (Romans 8:5). Everything we do and think should be done in lowliness of mind; we should also think about and put others before us (Philippians 2:2–5). The mind of Christ is all about encouraging, saving, putting others first, etc. and this same mind needs to be in us. The peace and love of God will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6–8).

Our Mouth

The tongue is the most unruly member of the body and can defile our entire existence (James 3:5). We cannot be taken or consumed or driven by the words of our mouth (Proverbs 6:2). Instead, we need to be swift to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19). Truth must always flow from us; we need to be mindful we don’t gossip or tell lies (Proverbs 18:8).

Our Love for Money

We cannot forsake giving to the Lord in our tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8). God won’t tempt us, but God will test us: tithing is a test to see if we believe God or not. We cannot believe the lie that we’ll have more money if we hang onto resources that were never meant to stay with us in the first place. We need to be content with what God has given us and trust in giving (I Timothy 6:8). The people (the 5 virgins) who are strong and know their God will do exploits (Daniel 11:32).

Strategy to Keep Our Oil

If we want to be in the group that makes it (5 wise virgins), we need to follow 3 easy steps. We need to remember the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). In order to get that joy, we need to stay in God’s presence (Psalms 16:11). Finally, we need to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise (Psalms 100:4). God wants His people to love, be conformed to His image, let their light shine, etc. In this home stretch, the saints should become more fervent in their walk with God. It’s important  we don’t let our oil run out.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 29, 2019 with Guest Teacher, Pastor Melder

Does this Match

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Does this match? I hear this question asked often by friends and loved ones. If directed toward me, a majority of the time my answer is very simple—No! It’s not that I’m a fashion-monger or have a great eye for color, I’ve just had a few experiences in my lifetime that have made me leery of color.

For instance, when I was in grade school, my sister and I played soccer for a local league. We had a smashing uniform for game days: a reversible shirt with navy blue on one side and goldenrod yellow on the other. Let’s just say I learned at an early age yellow’s not my color.

Even worse were our practice clothes. My mother was not about to send her daughters off to practice several times a week to have grass stains or rips comes back on our Sunday’s finest. So, we wore mismatched outfits, uncomplimentary colors, and wild patterns. I think I donned a teal polka-dot something or other that unequivocally didn’t match. (Ironically, looking at fashion trends today, I was totally in style, just years ahead of my time.)

I’m honestly surprised I’ve lived this long because when I arrived at soccer practice I could have died of embarrassment. I remember my sister and I begging to attend practice in something nicer—something more stylish. But, our mother was unyielding (and rightly so). Therefore, we drugged weekly to practice, looking forward with great expectation to game day when we could match everyone else.

Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope (Psalms 119:116, KJV).

As children, our scope of concern was so narrowly focused we missed out on a few things. The color of our clothes didn’t matter when we were coming home with grass and mud stains all over our clothes. Stains don’t look good on any color or fabric pattern. We weren’t thankful our parents provided an opportunity for us to play soccer. Bonus, they even provided clothes for us to wear while doing it.

I’ve realized that kids aren’t the only ones who do this: lose focus and get ashamed over something they shouldn’t. In our walk with God, when we look and act less like the world, it’s easy to get distracted and begin to feel uncomfortable around everyone else. When who we are doesn’t match the world, we start to become ashamed of our hope in God. Then, we start complaining to our Heavenly Father; we beg He allow us to look, talk, and act like everyone else just to fit in.

We forget the big picture and true scope of what it’s all about. For me, it wasn’t about the clothes but the ability to play soccer. In our relationship with God, it’s not about us or what we want, but what He’s done for us. He’s called us out of a darkened world to be separate (II Corinthians 6:17)! He’s called us close to have a relationship with Him. He hasn’t discarded us and left us alone to face a life stained with sin. When we get a look at the big picture, what we’re wearing doesn’t seem to be a big deal, huh?

If there’s any cause for us to be ashamed today, it’s that we don’t match Jesus. Our question shouldn’t be “Does this match,” but “Does this match Jesus?”

Don’t let the world implant any thought into your mind that you need to be ashamed in Him or what He’s asked you to do. He’s our greatest hope; He’s changed our life! We have no cause for hope or a future in anyone else but God. Lord, let us match You today and You alone. Let us strive to match Your pattern, Your garment, and be washed as white as snow.

The Value of the Test

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:1–4, KJV).

Our Outlook on Adversity

As humans, we don’t innately like to be tested. Tough times and adversity affect us; it impacts our thoughts, outlook, personality, worship, prayer life, etc. James, the pastor of the early church, observed how adversity was impacting the saints. Persecution was prevalent and very hard times had come upon the early believers.

When it comes to the Christian life, adversity is to be expected. It will come in all shapes and sizes and from many different directions. Regardless to the trial or tribulation, our outlook should be joyful and we should have a positive mindset toward these spiritual troubles. James wanted to help the church change their vantage point on trials.

Benefits of Adversity

In the face of the trial, it’s hard to see the benefit. However, we need to understand how the trying of our faith works patience (James 1:3). There is value in adversity! We must stop losing our faith and giving up in the face of adversity; it will keep coming so we must know how to view it and deal with it.

Nothing is as bad as it seems in American, Christian culture. Our trials can’t be compared to the situation James was addressing: these people were being persecuted for their faith, were miles away from their families, etc. Even still, adversity, for the early church (and for us today) has a purpose. God will uses trials, tests, and temptation for our development. Trials bring out endurance and steadfastness in our walk with God.

James wasn’t the first one to tell us trying times are good for us. David said the same in the Psalms (Psalms 66:10). Solomon tells us God tries the hearts (Proverbs 17:3). Peter told us to greatly rejoice over many temptations; the trial of our faith is good for us (I Peter 1:6–7). God is testing our trustworthiness to Him. We must realize God, through the refining the process of adversity, is trying to get the best (perfect work) out of us (James 1:4).

We will never reach a level of knowledge and wisdom in God until we’ve walked through a time of adversity. We’ll never grow in a ministry unless we’ve had a few trials. We must expect trials in our lives; God will not shield us from misery and hard times. He didn’t do it for the early church, and it won’t do it for us today.

The “Whys” of Trials

God’s objective is not to make us happy in this life; it’s to make us holy. He wants to make us like Him (we were created in His image). God calls us to be holy because He is holy (I Peter 1:16). The happiness people should be looking for will only be found in God’s holiness. When James talks about being perfect or complete, it only comes through trials. In the face of adversity, we need to stop trying to pray away every trial! Instead, we should ask God to take us through the trial instead of taking us out of the trial! We need to have enough faith in God to trust Him and let the trial run its course in our lives. Mature Christians will don the attitude of doing whatever it takes to grow in their Christian walk. We should realize not everything is easy or comfortable.

We’ll Value the Test When We Know…

It’s Preparing Us

Paul persuaded a runaway slave to return to his master. In his return, Paul asks the master to be reconciled to his servant. He noted how the servant in the past was unprofitable, but now he was profitable to both of them (Philemon 1:10–16). Paul called out that Onesimus would now be like a brother to both of them in the flesh and in the Lord. In sum, Paul identified that Onesimus was not the same man he was before he underwent a test. In our own trials, we should look at them and analyze how it’s preparing us for the future. Trials will prepare us for something greater!

We Can Trust God

Most of us honestly don’t trust God. The true test of spiritual maturity is not what we know how to do, but what we do when we don’t know what to do (I Timothy 4:10). Trust means being convinced about something, and in this case, convinced in God. Trusting God is a heart issue; our hearts need to be fixed on Him (Psalms 112:7). We must ask ourselves a question: can we choose to only trust in the tangible or in what we can’t always see? We need to develop our trust in God; this will happen through continuous trials in this lifetime.

It Will End Well

All things will work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We are tested many times against what God already knows about our potential. He is trying to help us see this for ourselves. Through the trials, and our growing endurance, the outcome will be positive. Remember, God won’t tempt us beyond what we’re able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13).

Conclusion

James says to value our adversity because it’s doing a good work in us. Because trying times are positive, we need to adjust our mindset. We must know adversity helps prepare us, trust in God, gives us assurance we will end well. God will bless those who patiently endure testing and temptation; afterward they will receive the crown of life (James 1:12).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 22, 2019 with Pastor Nave

The Lost Straw Brush

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

You know you’re getting old when your husband plucks a straw brush off the wall at the store, shows it to you, and you feel a rush of excitement. I’m not ashamed to admit I was beyond excited when my husband located this tiny contraption. When you find one thing that can make your life better (or easier)—such as cleaning out the inside of a reusable straw—you’ll make room for it in your life.

The very next day, I put the newly-purchased straw brush to good use. I easily washed multiple straws, overjoyed the product actually worked. (It really doesn’t take that much to make me happy, folks.) Product use continued for about a week, and then one morning, I went to utilize my beloved new kitchen tool and it was gone: vanished, without a trace.

I searched for several minutes and stopped. I assumed my husband had put it away somewhere in the kitchen unbeknownst to me. I was bothered albeit steady in the abandonment of my search—I knew my husband would help unearth the object when he awoke. But, he later announced he didn’t know where my precious gizmo was. I was crestfallen. Where was my straw brush?!?

I searched my entire kitchen, but to no avail. I left, came back later (with a flashlight), and searched again. I repeated my search again while on the phone with my sister. Obviously distracted from our conversation, she urged me to tell her what was wrong. Exasperated, I told her, “I can’t find my straw brush!” She laughed (a bit too harshly I might add) and told me to buy a new one. But, I was adamant I’d find my straw brush. I didn’t need a new one, and I certainly wasn’t wasting another $3 on something I’d already purchased. And, so my search continued—many days—until I finally recovered it.

Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? (Luke 15:8, KJV)

In my recent straw brush-hunting escapade, I recalled this parable. Jesus tells of a woman owning 10 pieces of silver, equating to about $1.50 in sum. When one piece went missing, she put everything into finding that coin, even though it was worth only 15 cents.

Am I comparing my straw brush to this woman’s piece of silver? In a way, yes. Like me, that silver made the woman’s life better. We both shined a light into darkened places in our relentless search. We each owned something that held a certain value. There are remarkable parallels: value, light, etc. and both have the same underlying message to the story.

For the woman, it wasn’t just that the 10 coins were all she had, it’s what they represented. They were her future, her livelihood, and I’ve even heard some theologians say her dowry and token of fidelity to her betrothed. But, even under the mask of those reasons, the 10 pieces of silver represented her salvation. First and foremost, she was going to do everything in her power to find it and keep it.

Our salvation and relationship with God make our lives infinitely better. However, I wonder how many of us cling to and search for our salvation the same way this woman hunted for her silver piece or the way I sought my straw brush. Do we understand the true weight and significance of our salvation that we would stop everything we’re doing to find it? Are we willing to forsake all else to keep it?

Many times, we prioritize the wrong things and expend our energy and resources to save (or find) something that won’t last us eternity. We lose sight of the things that truly matter. Lord help us seek you and our salvation with an intensity and passion that exceeds every other area of our life. He’s the greatest treasure we could ever own in this life or the next. Seek Him and He will be found.

Making Hard Decisions

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

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Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5–6, KJV).

Decency and Order

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order (I Corinthians 14:37–40, KJV).

The Purpose of Instruction

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth because there was confusion in their church services; they were making something ineffective God wanted to be effective. The believers were using tongues as a means of spiritual authority instead of moving them toward spiritual unity. Because of these factors, Paul’s goal was to teach the church how to mature their Christian understanding as well as unify and edify the church. His purpose was not to eliminate the gift of tongues in the church, but to improve it. In summation of Paul’s teaching, he speaks of decency and order: decency speaks to what’s right; order speaks to what works.

Tongues Place in the Church

Paul encourages the church to pursue and seek after spiritual gifts, specifically speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:1). Tongues is something supernatural that occurs in the church that gives God an avenue to interact with His people. It’s a clear indication of God’s direct voice in the church. Speaking in tongues, or prophesying in the church, should transcend into interpretation so everyone can understand and benefit from it. This is the key purpose of prophecy, to communicate the message of God to those around you.

When people speak in tongues, they speak unto God and not to other people (I Corinthians 14:2). It can edify and help the individual greatly, but not the entire church (I Corinthians 14:4). But, those who prophesy speak to the church (other people) to edify them. Prophecy has a clear target and a purpose (I Corinthians 14:3): edification, instruction, correction, persuasion, comfort, etc. One of the main reasons God’s people come together is to build up the church; therefore, God has given the body of Christ tools for this purpose. Speaking in tongues in an individual and global capacity is greatly needed, which is why Paul desired for all to speak in tongues (I Corinthians 15:5).

When Tongues Aren’t Interpreted

The body of Christ needs to effectively communicate with each other: in a way everyone understands (I Corinthians 14:6). Therefore, when tongues are spoken in the church without interpretation, Paul likens this to misusing an instrument and rendering the wrong sound (I Corinthians 14:7). If a trumpet doesn’t sound like a trumpet, people won’t know they’re being called to battle. Without interpretation, we are wasting our words (I Corinthians 14:9). Remember, this instruction is in context to building a church.

Secondly, if we don’t interpret, it’s like speaking in a foreign language where no one understands. Paul compares this to everyone sounding like barbarians to one another(I Corinthians 14:10–11). Instead, the church must seek so they excel in the use of tongues and interpretation (I Corinthians 14:12).

How to Get Better

We need to pray we can be used to interpret tongues (I Corinthians 14:13). Specifically, we need to pray with the Spirit, but also pray with understanding (I Corinthians 14:15). If we don’t speak clearly, those in the church who are unlearned, or haven’t been exposed to tongues, won’t know what’s being said. Paul would rather speak 5 words that people could understand rather than hundreds of words in an unknown tongue (I Corinthians 14:19).

Speaking in tongues in the church must be done in decency and and in order so there’s no confusion. However, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak in tongues in the church. It’s very much a part of the New Testament church and continues today!

How Tongues are Used in the Church

Tongues are used as a sign in the church (I Corinthians 14:22). They are for the unbeliever to help them believe. This was exemplified on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. People heard the early church speak in tongues in their own language. It showed God was pouring out His Spirit on all people.  Additionally, tongues are also used as a gift for building the church. If we speak in a way people understand, God will convict and convert a person and the church will be validated through the gift (I Corinthians 14:24).

Steps for Getting in Order

We need to organize and coordinate (I Corinthians 14:26). This requires preparing spiritually for services as well as needed resources. Then, if someone speaks in tongues, just allow 2 or 3 people interpret (I Corinthians 14:27). Paul explains how the church should take turns and not interrupt each other. We don’t want confusion! Lastly, if there isn’t an interpreter, we should keep quiet and not draw attention to themselves (I Corinthians 14:28). Most likely, this edification is for the individual and not the entire church. We are in control of ourselves when we’re being used by the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 14:32).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 15, 2019 with Pastor Nave

Rocks and Road Runners

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

When I was in grade school, I’d wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings. Why would I do this? Sadly, for no other reason than to watch cartoons on TV. Around 5:00am, I (being the eldest) would creep down the hallway to my parent’s bedroom to inquire if we were allowed to get up. My parents would growl something about it being “too early” (geesh) and command us to get back in bed.

Eventually, when we were given the green light to go downstairs and turn on the TV—mostly due to the amount of noise we’d generate in our room—my sister and I would be enthralled in watching the adventures of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and numerous others. To little girls, there wasn’t a better way to kick-start your (early) Saturday morning than in hysterics: laughing until our sides hurt at the slap-stick comedy and teasing each other’s less-than uncanny impressions.

One of our favorite shows was the Coyote and the Road Runner (meep meep). If you’re unfamiliar with Looney Tunes, Wile E Coyote would endlessly attempt to set up various contraptions from the ACME Corporation to nab the Road Runner. But, he was always unsuccessful because either 1) the Road Runner was too fast or 2) his traps would malfunction and backfire on him. The most iconic mishap was the tumbling boulder, to which Coyote would try to shield himself with a little parasol. Oh, the irony.

Whoever digs a pit [for another man’s feet] will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone [up a hill to do mischief], it will come back on him (Proverbs 26:27, AMP).

Whether we knew it or not, my sister and I were learning a valuable lesson taught in Scripture. If you try to set someone else up for failure, it will come back to get you when you least suspect it. It’s important to note it’s not a probability you’ll get what’s coming to you but an absolute guarantee.

This proverb follows the law of the harvest—you will reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). What we sow in our flesh will end in corruption. Generally, that’s why we do unto others what we want them to do in return (Luke 6:31). It’s easy to say, but do we actually follow-through with our actions 100% of the time?

Coyote was definitely up to no good in his cockamamie schemes to catch the Road Runner. But, he could try claim a justification in his behavior. Hey, a coyote has to eat! Like the Coyote, we can feel validated to roll a few stones uphill when we don’t want to offer up all possible information to a coworker to help them solve an issue because hey, they aren’t responsible and don’t work hard. Or, we don’t show up to help out at a church event because hey, so-and-so never helps at our events. Or, we tell a lie about an individual to get them into trouble because hey, they’ve done it to us in the past.

Whether we realize it or not, some actions we carry out, words we say, thoughts we think, or prayers we do/don’t pray can all be forms of pits and stones. Take a lesson from Scripture (and the Coyote) today and realize you’re getting ready to be crushed momentarily by an anvil. If you have sin in your heart—from the traps you’ve laid and the stones you’ve pushed uphill—God isn’t going to protect you from the fall or from being squished (Psalm 66:18).

Lord, help us search our hearts today so we can get rid of any Coyote-mentalities. We need to be pure of heart and allow the Holy Ghost to guide every thought and every action. Help us to fill in the pits we’ve set and retrieve the rocks we’ve pushed uphill. Help us to forgive and love our enemies and realize we’re all worthy of death, ending in more than just a puff of smoke (like the Coyote). Thank you, Jesus, for your forgiveness and helping us right our ways. The Road Runners in life aren’t worth it!

I’m Not Praying for That

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

I recently heard a Christian comedian say when he’s asked to pray for certain requests, he mentally responds, “I’m not praying for that.” He wasn’t being a heartless individual—he just wasn’t sure it was ethical to use up Heaven’s prayer-waves asking for someone’s child to win at a karate tournament.

I really laughed at this one because there is so much more to this notion—our willingness to (or not to) pray for requests. I believe most people really have a heart to pray for others’ needs. However, I find myself retracting more often than not, apprehensive to pray for a request. Instead, I find myself questioning, is that really what we should ask for?

And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them (Jonah 1:13–14, KJV, emphasis added).

Jonah was trying to escape God’s directive, and found himself on a boat in the middle of the sea with a crew of sailors. Due to his disobedience, God stirred up a storm, almost capsizing the boat and entire passenger manifest. Jonah confessed he was responsible for their predicament and instructed the crewmates to toss him overboard. But, the men couldn’t bring themselves to harm him; instead they tried to make it safely to land.

Often enough, someone presents a dire need in their life. We’re quick to see the severity, and without hesitation hit our knees in prayer to approach the throne of God. We ask for the Lord’s intervention and that He would do a quick work. But, what if what we’re praying for isn’t actually God’s will?

To the sailors, saving Jonah’s life (and theirs) was priority number one. They didn’t listen when Jonah told them to cast him in the sea. Even through his disobedience, Jonah still relayed God’s present will.

This is very similar as to what happens when we ask God to complete a work that’s in direct opposition to His will. We see the situation with only our own eyes and emotion and our prayer is a knee-jerk reaction. The sailors weren’t wrong to show compassion for Jonah, but it wasn’t God’s will for him to go anywhere else! No matter how hard they rowed, they couldn’t move because God was against them.

Soon, the men cried out to God, asking for their lives to be spared. They realized throwing Jonah overboard would actually please God because it was His will (Jonah 1:14). If they hadn’t changed their course of action, I’m not sure God wouldn’t have sunk them all. When they tried to row to shore and kept Jonah aboard, they were working against God and His will. That is a scary place for anyone to be.

It’s difficult to realize that sometimes the hardships of those around us are God’s will. But, we can’t put ourselves in the middle of their storm by praying for something that’s contrary to God’s will. We don’t want our prayers to work against God and definitely don’t want to be caught in His wrath. Praying for God’s will takes wisdom. Seek to know what God’s desire is for the situation and then pray exactly that.

The comedian’s words have some truth. “I’m not praying for that” can become “I’m praying for this.” We’ll know the “this” when we seek and know the will of our Father. PS—Don’t take the easy way out by saying, “I’ll just pray for God’s will.” Figure out His will in prayer, agree with it, and pray for it!

Bad Deals

Sunday, May 5th, 2019

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Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein (Hosea 14:9, KJV).

The Basics of Bad Deals

There are deals in life we wish we never agreed to. If we could, we’d go back in time and reverse the decision, spoken words, etc. as if it had never happened. God teaches the church through His Word that no matter how good something seems, there will always be bad deals.

God hates bad deals (Proverbs 11:1). God knows His creation is eligible for much greater but instead we trade ourselves for much less. He wants us to get the best deal! Our spiritual bad deals hurt the most because they hold eternal impacts; we can’t always recover from them. We trade the eternal for the temporary far too often. Instead of trading, we need to take inventory and see what exchanges we’re making for our salvation and relationship with God.

An Example of a Bad Deal

Hosea was a prophet to Israel when Judah was divided. God asked him take a wife who was a prostitute (Hosea 1:2). His life became a living sermon to God’s people—God was beckoning for His church to return to Him and warning them about the bad deals they made. Anytime we walk away from the Lord and His blessings it will always be a bad deal.

We’re in a Bad Deal When We…

Stop Valuing What We Already Have

Gomer would follow after her lovers to get corn, wine, and flax. She thought they could give her more than what her husband could provide. But, this simply wasn’t true. Hosea could and had provided all those things. He would even buy her back when she was on the auction block many times, but she kept making bad deals. She didn’t realize what she had in her husband’s house was enough to sustain her. The same is true with God: all we really need is found in His house. God will give us everything that we need: companionship, money, etc. He is reaching for us today to keep us safe and to keep us from making bad deals.

Aren’t Honest About Who We Really Are

Israel was hurting God and each other by breaking His laws through setting up idols in the land (Hosea 4:1–2). We can all be guilty about setting up our own idols in our lives from time to time. Our idols might be different, but they’re all driven by the same spirit. We can’t mix God and the world together (Matthew 6:24); instead we must invest ourselves in God’s Kingdom. We can’t tell ourselves that what we’re doing is okay (even if we don’t feel conviction). We cannot mistake God’s grace and mercy for His acceptance.

Don’t Know Who We’re Dealing With

God’s people will be destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). Knowledge in this Scriptural context speaks of relationship. God’s people didn’t know who He was; they had no relationship with Him. This Scripture warns us about how we can be busy about the Kingdom and not know the King (Matthew 7:22–23). The devil can convince us to do the wrong things, cross the wrong boundaries, and believe untruths. We won’t know we’re being deceived if we don’t know God well enough. Those who don’t know Jesus will wind up in the lake of fire, the ultimate punishment for bad deals. There’s nothing in this world, or any deal, worth going to hell over. We must follow God and keep our salvation.

The Never-Ending To-Do List

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

I’m one of those people who absolutely loves to-do lists. It’s not that I like having the to-do part, but the check-it-off-when-it’s-done part. There’s something satisfying about checking off an item that’s done. I’m enough of a weirdo, that when I complete a task not currently on my list, I’ll add it and then check it off. Yep, I’m one of those people.

To ensure my task-list isn’t never-ending, I don’t add things that are habitual on-going actions. For example, I’m not going to add “breathe” on my list. I started that at birth and I plan on doing it until the day I die. Breathing is never a completed task, and therefore, isn’t going on my list. I’d even argue that sleeping, getting dressed, taking a shower, and eating fall into a similar category. If you need a task-list to do that stuff, or don’t do it daily, you might have a problem (sorry).

While we can avoid never-ending checklists in our natural life, this isn’t the case in our spiritual life:

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14, KJV).

In our spiritual walk, we have a tendency to see our relationship with God as a to-do list. We have a list of items to do each day, and once we check them off, we check out. But, there’s more behind a simple to-do list with God. There’s less once-and-done than there are ongoing, daily things (like breathing).

I love this Scripture because it’s a constant reminder that Christ died for our sins. It was His complete once-and-done action that paid the price for every sin everyone would commit from the beginning to the end of the world. He has forever perfected and completely cleansed those who are sanctified.

What we can’t see immediately on the surface of this verse is the meaning behind the word sanctified. This Greek word describes a process of being made holy. It’s is a present passive participle (for my fellow grammar nerds out there), which means sanctification is a continuing action. We can’t check it off our spiritual to-do list because it’s always ongoing. This means, we’ve got a never-ending spiritual to-do list.

Jesus’s goal is to lead every believer to spiritual completion and maturity. That doesn’t happen the moment we’re born again (Acts 2:38). With His help, we make daily strides to grow in our relationship with God and become more like Him in our thoughts, actions, and behaviors.

I’ll admit that part of our sanctification process can be broken down into sub-tasks, which can be added to a daily to-do list. We can create tasks for our daily prayer and Bible-reading or set phone reminders to check in with God to keep us in a constant state of prayer and praise. These may seem elementary, and things we should complete daily (like taking a shower), but we may need to add them to a task list until they become as natural (and habitual) as breathing!

As a caveat, adding these little reminders or task-oriented items doesn’t cover every aspect of our sanctification process because sanctification covers so much more. If we allow God, He’ll penetrate every area of our life, every second of the day. Soon, we’ll see that living for God and our process of spiritual maturity isn’t an item confined to a list—it makes up all of who we are, and it’s never-ending.

If your walk with God is more of a check-list, that’s a step in the right direction. Pray God can lead you in a transition of once-and-done to all-the-time. If you desire to seek Him with your whole heart, He’ll help you on your journey toward sanctification. Remember, He already completed the once-and-done item of giving His life for our sins. We get the privilege of living out a daily spiritual to-do list without paying the wage of death for our sin ever again.