This week is quite significant for many reasons. Yesterday was Palm Sunday that is the official kick-off to “Holy Week.” Which you may recall was when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Growing up I always liked this weekend because Palm branches would be handed out at church which we then made a cross with it to keep around the house. At the time I did not understand the significance of the tradition nor how important Holy Week is. Friday is of course the day when we remember the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins when He was nailed to the cross. And smack dab in the middle of the week between Jesus entering Jerusalem and subsequent death on a Roman cross, is the Jewish celebration of Passover is on Wednesday which is the remembrance of when the Israelite people were spared when the angel of death “passed over” their homes in Egypt because they put the blood of a scarified lamb over the doorway. Besides the religious significance, this week according to the Surgeon General “is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment.” As I turned on the TV this morning, news report after news report warns that the USA is facing the worst week of the Covid-19 outbreak. As we have been “social distancing,” (which I have to say I cannot stand hearing that phrase, I prefer “physical distancing” but I digress), the most repeated thing that I have asked, or have been asked, is “how are doing in quarantine?” So, I will tell you, I am doing good. Like so many, it has been (3) weeks now that we have self-quarantined. In these difficult and confusing times, it’s been comforting to be with my wife and (2) daughters, facing this together. Each of us have been “finding our new normal.” I have commandeered the dining room as my work space, while our daughters have each found their own place to attend classes online. One blessing of being quarantined with my family is enjoying having lunch together and then 3 pm coffee time with my wife. I think the most interesting change is that I am now the one hitting Costco, Kroger or Walmart just trying to find the essentials. As I got ready yesterday and folded up my bandanna with some of my wife’s hair ties to create a makeshift mask, I felt a little like this guy…
Hahaha! And I am happy to report that yesterday I hit “pay dirt!”
The media has created such a frenzy with non-stop coverage of empty shelves, the number of infected and sadly the death toll. There is without a doubt a reason to be concerned and take precautions, but we need to not allow our lives to be driven by fear! I was reading this YouVersion Easter reading plan called ‘Risen’ by Ray Johnston, and he had this great insight:
“Fear is the darkroom where negatives develop.”
Fear will cause us to act irrationally like hording toilet paper and can open the door to the enemy’s attack. After I came home yesterday from Winco with my precious paper products, mind you I have not had paper towels in 3 weeks…talk about first world problems…I then gathered with my family to stream the church service. And the ironic part, the sermon was called “Overcoming Fear” by Jimmy Evans. This timely message was all about God wanting us to have peace, not fear! He shared that:
“Fear is a prophet spirit from hell, sent to give us a negative report about the future that will upset us and cause us to make a fear-based decision that God will not honor.”
That is so, so powerful! How many fear-based decisions are being made right now? The enemy loves to use fear as a weapon against us but 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) tells us:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Jimmy Evans also said that:
“God never uses fear! He uses peace!”
That got me thinking about the Jewish celebration of Passover this week and the word that they use for peace… “Shalom,” which as you may have guessed, is the inspiration of this post. I asked a friend of mine who has a lot of knowledge about Judaism what is a trusted definition of the word Shalom and he said:
“The basic definition is peace for sure. But that peace, is a peace that goes beyond just peace with others, but peace with self, circumstances, emotions, etc. More like the peace of a new born babe in his/her mother’s arms. Like that. Where things may be happening but finding that security in God.”
What a powerful image right? We can find peace in God like a baby has in its mother’s arms.
This past February, my wife and I went to the XO Marriage Conference and heard Dave and Ashley Willis talk about “Finding Peace in Marriage Conflicts.” They shared this great definition for Shalom:
“Breaking the authority established by chaos.”
That is what I believe many of us need to do! We need to break the authority that we have allowed chaos to have over our lives. Satan is the author of confusion and it is only when we take captive our thoughts that we can have True Shalom. 1 Corinthians 14:33a (NLT) reminds us…
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (“of Shalom” – see the Tree of Life Translation).
I just reading John chapter 14 in which Jesus comforted His Disciples about the end times. He book-ended the chapter with an offer of peace. John 14:1 (NLT) start off:
““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.””
I love the comfort found in John 14:1. This image reminded me of my many times in detention back in High School where the Dean had me write over and over “I will not _____ .”(Fill in the blank with whatever my offense was that day). Hahaha! I hated this punishment, but you know there is something about repetition that helps us learn the lesson. The same is true for our Life…Jesus gave us the key to ANY situation…“Trust in God, and trust also in [Him].” There is no better cure for anxiety than praying to the ONE who can comfort, heal and provide for us!
He meant this so much that at the end of the chapter, Jesus made this statement:
“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
So the question is, do you want to trust in the nightly news or the ONE who created you? The ONE who is your true provider! Jesus will provide much more than what your physical needs are, He with give you “peace of mind and heart!” All you need to do is ask Him for it today.
Pray…Stay Safe in Quarantine…and of course wash your hands!
★★ Want to dig deeper? ★★
Here are a couple of articles about the Meaning of Shalom:
Well we are 18 days into 2020, any revelations? Do you have a Word for the New Year? Or maybe I should say, have you asked God for one? For those of you who may not have done this in the past, let me just pause a moment and explain. Since 2015, as the year draws to an end, and a new page of the calendar is about to be flipped, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me a Wordfor the year. Sometimes it has been a phrase and other times a single word. Here are the past “Words/Phrases” so you can get an idea of what I mean:
If you are interested, just click on the link and you can read the associated post. There have even been times that it comes before I even ask, as was the case this year. It was December 29, 2019, and we were at my in-laws’ church in South Carolina that I felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me the word “CONSISTENCY” as my Word for the new year. I heard John Maxwell at the Gateway Church Legacy Conference talk about consistency in a way I never heard before. He said that it is the most underrated word in the dictionary which is not sexy or even something that you would love to be called but, in the end, “CONSISTENCY COMPOUNDS.”
When I think of “compounding,” my 401k comes to mind, and how the interest on the money over time gains momentum and produces a good return on my investment. Well the same is true when you consistently apply yourself in an area of your life, whether that is committing to a daily quiet time with God, scheduling time at the gym to stay healthy or being intentional with cultivating genuine community with the people in your life. It all comes down to discipline! Something that I struggled with for most of my life, but I have come to realize that it is absolutely necessary in order to be consistent. As Hebrews 12:11 (HCSB) reminds us:
“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
“Consistency is the ability to continually do the right thing every day regardless of whether the odds are for you, or the circumstances are favorable. If you want to go to greatness, don’t go to greatness, go to consistency. Practice it, that’s the path that will lead you to greatness.”
“Consistency is the ability to continually do the right thing every day!” I love that! And just like the verse in Hebrews, we must “practice it!” No meaningful change happens without work and unfortunately it never happens overnight! I read somewhere this quote that puts it perfectly…
“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” John Maxwell
2020 is going to be the year that this will be true of me! I want to be known as a man who is CONSISTENT in ALL areas of my life:
SPIRITUALLY…that my walk with Christ would be stronger than ever as I grow in my daily dependence on the Holy Spirit.
PHYSICALLY…that my health would be the best that it ever has been.
AND EMOTIONALLY…that my relationships with my wife, two daughters, friends and co-workers would be better than ever and life-affirming.
I am not going to grow in my relationship with Jesus and exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) unless I connect daily to follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of my life. I wish after my workouts I would instantly see a difference in the mirror, but I don’t. My target weight will only be achieved after months of effort. The same is true for my relationships. Unless I reach out and put in the effort to show the people in my life that I care and am invested in what matters to them, the connection will be surface level at best.
Over the past 20 days since I received my Word, I have been ruminating over this and looking for an example of someone who has modeled this in their life. So here goes…
SPIRITUAL MODEL: DAVID.
Now you may be thinking, why would he not choose Jesus? After all He is the only perfect person who ever lived! While that is certainly true, I landed on David because he is the only human who is described as “a man after god’s own heart” in the Bible (see 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). David is a complex person and you may remember in our “Temptation Series,” that I used him as the example of what not to (see the post ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3b) ★,) but even so, the scriptures are clear that David consistently chased after God with his whole heart! As a main contributor to the Book of Psalms, you see the love, trust and devotion he had for the Father. David said in Psalms 119:5 (NLT):
“Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!”
I want that to be true in my life! That everything that I think, say or do would reflect God’s Word. I read a commentary from David Guzik on Psalm 119:5 in which he said:
“This is not only a pious wish; it is also a prayer for the ability to obey God’s Word. We received God’s commands understanding our lack of ability to keep those commands, apart from His work in us.”
To achieve this I know, I must have a consistent quiet time with God where I daily pray, read the bible and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life. I have also found that Bible Studies with other believers have strengthen me as Proverbs 27:17 says.
PHYSICAL MODEL: MY WIFE.
Now before you start groaning and judging me that this is some self-serving sucking up, there is no one I know who has consistently made her health a priority in her life. If you have been on this blog before, you no doubt have seen me post pictures from her Facebook page Fit Family in which she integrates her 3 loves – Faith, Family, and Fitness. I have been married to her for over 20 years, and she has shown me day after day what it means to live a healthy life, one which is balanced with exercise and proper diet. Not dieting, BUT good choices with correct portions. My wife, who is very healthy and loves to workout, made this point to me in the past that the Holy Spirit just brought back to me remembrance, she said:
“You are so disciplined in your quiet time with God, why can’t you be disciplined in your health as well?”
Great question huh? Now you may think this was rude, but it honestly said in love because she wants to keep me around for as long as possible! Hahaha! When she met me, working out and watching what I ate was NOT me at all. I never exercised and I was a “biggie” size consumer, that the larger the portions, the better. Through her example I have learned what a balanced life looks like, and over the years I have improved but I am far from consistent. It is funny that what my wife challenged me with, is actually found in scripture! I was just reading 3 John 1:2 (NLT) last week in which John offered this greeting to his friend Gaius:
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”
So, though I desire first and foremost, to be consistent in my spiritual walk, I realized that I need to be consistent in EVERY part of my life so part of my prayer for 2020 is that I am “as healthy in body as [I am] strong in spirit!” Last year I hit 45, and with my mom dying from a stroke in 2016, it’s time that I commit to a consistently work at improving my health!
EMOTIONAL MODEL: FRED ROGERS.
Some may be thinking, who is Fred Rogers?! Others may only know him only as Mr. Rogers, the much-loved host of the TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which was a permanent fixture on TV sets across the country, airing on PBS from 1968 to 2001. Last Saturday we went to see the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” for the second time, and as I watched again Tom Hanks brilliantly portray the caring man who was so invested in helping kids understand the world, I was mesmerized all over again and thought this would be the perfect example of emotional consistency! Interestingly enough, it was not until the credits that I discovered that the movie was based on the 1998 Esquire article called “CAN YOU SAY…“HERO”?” by Tom Junod.
I looked up the article and was amazed to see the tag line under the title:
“Fred Rogers has been doing the same small good thing for a very long time.”
That is perfect!! Both in the movie and in real life, Fred Rogers reached out to everyone and worked to connect on an emotional level that made you feel so special. The author of the article was jaded by the world and in need of someone to care for him. As I read the Esquire article, I was moved to tears to read story after story of how profoundly affected people were by this meek man of God who made a simple offer every time “Will you be my neighbor?”One part that hit me really hard was this:
“The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is!” Amen? Jesus made this clear in Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT) when answering the question from one of the experts in religious law who asked him which is the most important commandment?
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The third part of my pray for 2020 is that I will consistently pursue a deeper connection with those in my life as modeled by Fred Rogers and to love my neighbor as much as I love myself!
So, I close with my original question…What’s your Word for 2020? I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit for one, it is a great way to center your year as you delve into the Bible in 2020.
★★★ DIG DEEPER ★★★
If you want to read more about the importance of Developing a Daily Quiet Time with God check out this post called:
My wife sent me this meme that is just plain hysterical!!
Every year around this time I get so frustrated with the excessive consumerism and rampant disregard of civility. There are so video clips of people beating one another just to get the hottest Black Friday deal all in the name of saving money! It got me thinking about this image that I saw from Tony Evans:
“The money you have came from God’s trees. Everything you have belongs to God.”
Have you ever thought of that $20 bill in your pocket comes from trees that the Creator of Heaven and Earth spoke into existence? (See Genesis 1:9-13).
I know I haven’t. This image reminds me a lot of Psalms 24:1 (NASB)…
“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”
And as Tony Evans stated it…“fear produces poor stewardship.” When we fail to understand “Who’s the owner,” we get into trouble and fail to “Be a good steward” which is Biblical mandate! As I was mulling this over, I got excited to resurrect a post called ★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 3 ★ which was part of a 4-part series to help spouse understand how to have unity in our Finances. Today I am going to cover the major points of contrasting what are the common views of money that people have vs. God’s view of money. Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount gives a perfect outline how our finances and possessions should be handled from God’s Perspective. For simplicity’s sake I will refer to it as “Man’s View of Money,” but obviously that goes for the women as well.
Did you know that there are more than 2,350 verses in the Bible instructing us on how to handle money and possessions that God has placed in our care? In today’s culture of instant gratification and entitlement. It seems that ought to learn what the Bible has to say. So, let’s start off with Matthew 6:19 (NASB) in which Jesus started off the teaching on money and possession saying:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”
Storing up stuff here on Earth is going in the wrong direction. Christian financial expert Larry Burkett said
“How we handle money is simply an outside indicator of our internal spiritual condition.”
1. The first view we are going to look at is Debt and Contentment:
The amazing thing is that as we are buying all the stuff on credit, we never realize that we are willingly entering into bondage to the credit card company or the car finance department or the mortgage company The world aggressively markets us that we no longer see debt as a problem which is how fist fights break out in Walmart on the day after we “Give Thanks!” The key is to be a wise consumer and not try to keep up with the “Joneses.” The question I have for you is…Are you content with what God is doing in your life? I Timothy 6:6 (NKJV) says,
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”
In the past I struggled big time with this, I was not content with waiting to have what I wanted and as a result I brought a lot of pressure into our marriage. As a result of not being content with what we had, my wife and I have accumulated consumer debt that we have had for years because we did not wait to save up. And I have to say it has frustrated me so much to be limited in what we can do because monthly credit card minimums. Have you ever thought about what you could do for the kingdom of God if you were not buried under credit card debt or car payments or a mortgage that you really cannot afford? Proverbs 22:7 is so true, debt really does make us a slave to the lender, this is another great way to view it!
Amen?! Too often we cannot say no to what marketers are selling, think about it, part of any effective advertising campaign is to make potential customers discontented with their existing product. These feelings that accompany discontentment are enough to make people buy things they don’t need or can’t afford. And sometimes it doesn’t even need to be a big screen TV or expensive purse it could just be eating out too much. I love what Dave Ramsey says about debt,
“Debt is not the problem, but a symptom. Debt is a symptom of overspending and undersaving.”
Debt is just a symptom of a bigger problem that we cannot say no to stuff and Proverbs 17:18 (MSG) puts a fine point on it,
“It’s stupid to try to get something for nothing, or run up huge bills you can never pay.”
So how do we erase debt? You have to choose to say no to what you want and focus on what you need. You need to learn contentment. Howard Dayton, from Crown Financial Ministries said:
“If you cannot be content with what you have, you will never be content with what you want.”
How many times have we seen this play out with celebrities who are on top of the world and are still not happy? The Apostle Paul knew about contentment and trusting in God’s Provisions. When he was in prison, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19 (NASB) about God’s Provisions,
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
If you look closely verse 19 says “all your needs” will be supplied. Discontentment ignores the provisions of our needs and focuses on what we do not have and conversely on what we want. We need to get to a place where our circumstances do not dictate whether we have joy or peace.
2. The second view we will look at is a hot button issue and that is Tithing.
All of these comments under “Man’s View,” I have thought at one time or another in my life. Growing up and into adulthood, I have seen a lot of hypocrisy in the church on how they handled the money and how they would badger the congregants to give more and more. These experiences happened in different denominations, so I know that it is not based on church affiliation but on the human heart. The simple fact is that Man will always let you down, but the key is not lumping God in the same category as a church or pastor that misrepresented Him by their actions. Jesus said in Matthew 6:20 (NASB),
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”
God does not need our money, but He wants our hearts to be focused on the Kingdom of Heaven, not on stuff here on earth. He knew that we would have an issue in this area which is why God made the requirement in the first place so that MONEY would not have a hold on OUR HEARTS. The tithe or 10% of our income which is actually the minimum required by God. Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV1984) says it all,
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.”
I love this verse because it is the only place in the Bible that God challenges us to “Test” Him. And if we pass the test, He promises to throw open the floodgates of heaven (or other translations say the “windows of heaven”) and bless us so much that we will not have room enough to store it. Now that is what I want. He also promises to prevent pests or the enemy from devouring what we have and that is not just finances and possessions but our marriage, our children and our health. So, you see we really can’t afford not to give our tithe to the Lord.
Robert Morris made this great point…
“Tithing is believing God can do more with 90% than you can do with 100%.”
Rather than gripping about ““losing”” 10% we should be happy that we get to keep 90%! Proverbs 3:9–10 (NIV1984) instructs us to,
“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
One thing that I have noticed is that if I do not make my tithes and offerings a priority there will always be something else that will eat up the money. When it says “First Fruits” here it means above all things, first and foremost, Honor the Lord with your wealth which He has provided for you. Robert Morris also:
“It doesn’t take faith to pay all your bills and THEN give to God. Put the kingdom of God FIRST… and see what happens to your provision!”
If you do that the blessings will overflow!! If you are not already tithing, I urge you to start and I promise you will never regret giving the Lord. In Luke 6:38 (NIV1984), Jesus said,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Your level of giving will be measured against you on what you receive. My absolute favorite question is…”Is the tithe based on the gross or the net”? I have asked this question myself and the best answer I have ever heard was, “What do you want to be blessed on??” You see it is all about the motive and the heart of the giver and how much you trust God. Rick Warren said,
“God’s BLESSING on you is always in proportion to your DEPENDENCE on Him. Great anointing is the fruit of great trusting.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV1984) says,
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
If you heart is not in the right place, you will not please God with you giving. God knew what hold money and possessions would have on our hearts and that is why so much teaching in the Bible deals with this.
3. Stewardship is the next view we will look at. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:
the office, duties, and obligations of a steward – I always love how they define a word with the same word, I thought that was not allowed. A Steward (is defined as a fiscal agent or manager).
the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.
So, when we talk about Biblical Stewardship, we are talking about management of money and resources for God. This however is not the conventional wisdom of this age. Let’s take a look at the different views that exist…
We need to understand that it is not our money. God is the owner and we are His managers entrusted with His affairs and His possessions. If Jesus spoke so much on the topic, don’t you think it may be important for us to understand what we are expected to do as managers of the resources God allows to come into our hands? I love how Robert Morris makes the point,
“Many believers aren’t aware of this, but EVERY time you get paid, you are facing a test.”
The test is, whether we can be trusted to be a good manager. Luke 16:10-11 (NIV1984) says,
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”
Okay, so then how do we handle money as faithful managers? I will give you a hint, it is the B-word of finances….You guess it the “Dreaded Budget”. Yes, we have finally gotten to the part that you have been dying to get to – NOT! Hahaha! The budget is the absolute key to winning at money. John Maxwell put it this way,
“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
Dave Ramsey suggests using a “Zero-Based Budget.”
The “Zero-Based Budget” approach which is where the Total Expenses = Total Income. Every dollar is spent on paper before it is spent. If done this way, when you work through every category on your budget sheet you should end up with a zero (no extra money left over, or extra money spent).
It always amazed us when the checking account was empty, and we had no idea where the money went. Though we did not spend large sums of money on expenses items, we were $20 and $50 ourselves to death. One of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein is:
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Trying to manage your finances without a budget, without a plan is the very definition of insanity because you will never know where the money went and in most cases you will end up with “more month” then there is money to go around and I don’t need to tell you what a breeding ground for conflict that causes. The budget is paramount to reduce stress and help control you to control your spending.
4. The number four view is Idolatry and Greed.
Money and possessions cannot make you happy or fill the void, it cannot buy happiness. Jesus furthers the point in Matthew 6:24 (NASB) when He said,
“No one can serve two masters; (the Message translates this as ‘two gods,’) for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Money can become an Idol and if we are not careful, it can replace God. And no discussion on greed can be complete without us mentioning one of the most famous scriptures from 1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT),
“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”
This is one of the most famous and most misquoted verses. Many people say, “money is the root of all kinds of evil,” but if you look carefully it says, “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” And that love of money can cause us to wander from the faith and cause many problems in our marriage and finances. It is all about the heart and until you have that right, you will continually spin your wheels and never please God.
5. Worry is number five.
Some reading this post that have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, so I want to be careful in how I pose this section contrasting Man’s view with God’s view. But what Jesus is saying here is that we need to put out trust in Him and not be troubled but the nightly news headlines because He is in control. We need to rely on God and God alone. Look at this cartoon; I love the punch line from the man’s wife,
“Why don’t you stop wondering what is wrong with the world and just read the manual”.
The bible is the one and only manual that will point our lives in the right direction. As we place our concerns in God’s capable hands, we find a quietness that only He can provide. God gives peace to those who are quiet before Him as Philippians 4:6 (NASB) says we are to,
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Boy that is a hard one for me sometimes but the longer I walk with God the more I realize when I just put in his hands (and leave it there), He will take care of my every need. I am not the provider for my family, God is the provider.
6. The final view we will look at tonight is Legacy.
I saw this comic, and though it is funny, it is also quite sobering!
But Jesus made God’s view clear in Matthew 6:33 (NASB) which says,
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
God should be ahead of everything else, if we do, everything else will be added to us. It should be a great concern of ours about the debt just continuing to grow with no thought of the future.
1 Timothy 5:8 (NASB) says,
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
If you are not thinking about the legacy you leave, you are considered to have “denied the faith” and are “worse than an unbeliever!” To add to that thought, Proverbs 13:22 (NIV1984) says,
“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”
How much would people change their spending habits if they thought about providing for their “children’s children”….if they thought generational? One of Dave Ramsey’s most famous quotes is,
How we live now will greatly affect how we will live in the future. And at the risk of making this post a little longer, I wanted to let you know that applying these principles contained in this post will change your life! We are living proof of it! For years now, my wife and I have applying ourselves, being a good steward, tithing consistently and working to eliminate the consumer debt and I am thrilled to report that as of November 19, 2019 we are Debt Free! (…Everything but the house.) I cannot tell you how liberating of a feeling it is!
To go along with that thought, I wanted to share an amazing sermon series called Beyond Blessed, in which Robert Morris unpacks what the “Bible says about the importance of wise stewardship and how it’s God’s perfect plan to overcome all financial stress.” I would like to close with this final thought…
“God blesses us because He loves us, and He also blesses us so we can be a blessing. Living beyond blessed isn’t about what we’re able to receive; it’s about what we’re able to give. It’s then that we can truly live beyond blessed.”
I pray that you receive that today and that you will commit to “Be a good steward!” Nothing changes if nothing changes. I hope that this post is a springboard for you to start your journey to expand your Biblical Worldview of Money and begin to adopt God’s View of how we handle our Finances and Possessions! May God richly bless you as you trust in Him completely!
Have you ever questioned the validity or truth of God’s Word? Now don’t be hasty and give the “Christianese” answer, be honest. We all have at one time or another questioned the goodness of God, and whether the Bible is true or not. Many people find the Old Testament confusing, and question how can the God who seems to be doling out vengeance left and right, be the same God who is all about love in the New Testament. Truth be told, though it may appear that the two don’t align, I assure you that God is the same in first book of the Bible (Genesis) as He is in the last one (Revelation). The problem is a lack of understanding and knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments. You may be wondering what does this matter? I saw this graphic that was illuminating…
Only 9% surveyed actually read all of the Bible, and the bulk of those (30%) who do read it only read several passages or stories. As I have read the Bible over and over, I see the love of God all over the pages of the Old Testament, but I also see how stubbornly God’s people rejected Him and refused to keep the covenant that God made with them thousands of years ago. As a result of that willful disobedience, the people suffered the consequences. You see unless you have studied the whole Bible, the casual reader or Sunday morning attendee will misunderstand and judge God for punishing the Israelites for their sin. That is why you will see on this website, the importance of reading and studying the entire Bible, not just the coffee cup or bumper sticker verses that make you feel good. But unfortunately, many people just hear the passages of God’s wrath and write off the possibility that God could be good. But first and foremost, it is important that we establish that the Bible is the Word of God. The Apostle Paul, arguably one of the most influential writers of the New Testament penned these words in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) which I would like to start off with:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
“The truth of God’s Word applies to all men and women in every culture, in every age, in every walk of life…Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; the Bible enlightens each individual to recognize personal sin, the need for salvation, and the best possible life course.”
For me, the Bible is the anchor of my life. I believe that every person has the potential to live a victorious life where you can annihilate anxiety and fear, overcome the past and move ahead in a completely new trajectory of freedom if that Bible on the nightstand or bookshelf would just be opened! Proverbs 1:7 (NLT) says:
“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
I read a commentary on this passage that explained…
“This fear of the LORD is not a cowering, begging fear. It is the proper reverence that the creature owes to the Creator and that the redeemed owes to the Redeemer. It is the proper respect and honoring of God.”
So honoring God is the foundation, or the starting point of true knowledge, how do we follow this command without honor reading His Word in totality? Last week, I was reading Jeremiah 14:19-22 (NLT), in which the prophet Jeremiah is beseeching the Creator of Heaven and Earth to relent from giving the people exactly what they deserved. It is such a powerful prayer that I believe we would do well to keep in mind for ourselves today. Jeremiah does something pretty amazing, he appeals to the very character of God…Not that God needs to be reminded of His faithfulness, but Jeremiah asks some silly questions that he knows the answers to starting in verse 19:
“Lord, have you completely rejected Judah? Do you really hate Jerusalem? Why have you wounded us past all hope of healing?”
Let’s stop for a second so I can give you some background on the previous chapters. God has been telling Jeremiah how far the people have gone away from Him, and what He was planning to do in response. Perhaps these questions were in earnest, but I believe that Jeremiah knew something that we need to understand today, that God is good and He loves His people. Jeremiah then flips the prayer to one of repentance, but not just for Judah and Jerusalem but he includes himself as well, although I doubt that the Lord’s prophet would have been considered wicked. He prayed:
“We hoped for peace, but no peace came. We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror. Lord, we confess our wickedness and that of our ancestors, too. We all have sinned against you.”
If you read Jeremiah 15:6-8 and Jeremiah 16:10-13, you will find a very clear justification of the wickedness that God spoke to Jeremiah. The truth is, we ALL have sinned against God! It does not matter your sex, race, political affiliation, economic or socio-cultural background, EVERYONE has fallen short of God’s glorious standard! (See Romans 3:23). But my favorite part of this prayer is the argument Jeremiah gives of “why” God should heal the land! He prayed:
“For the sake of your reputation, Lord, do not abandon us. Do not disgrace your own glorious throne. Please remember us, and do not break your covenant with us.”
Why should God intercede for His people? Because not healing them would ruin His reputation of being a God who is faithful. He made a covenant with the People of Judah and so Jeremiah is praying to God to not break it because of the evil His people had done. The final part of Jeremiah’s prayer that is a great model for us, is to just exalt God for how majestic and powerful He is!
“Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain? Does it fall from the sky by itself? No, you are the one, O Lord our God! Only you can do such things. So we will wait for you to help us.”
That final sentence is just perfect! Jeremiah is just trusting that God will indeed do what he just asked for! What boldness and faith! As you read the Bible in totality, you see the faithfulness of God on every page.
Robert Morris preached an incredible series called “God is…” in which he went through some of the major attributes of God. The one that hit me particularly hard was called “Beyond You”, in which he talked about how God is faithful and worthy of our trust. He said:
“Faithful means “full of faith.” The root of faith is “trust,” and the root of trust is “true.” The reason we can trust God is because He is full of truth. The more we know God, the more we can trust Him. Even when we don’t think He’s being faithful, He is, because He doesn’t lie.”
“The more we know God, the more we can trust Him!” And the only way to get to know Him is through the reaching His Word. Jesus made this profound statement in Luke 21:33 (NLT)…
“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”
The Bible has been an anchor not only for individuals, but for our country as a whole. I just read The American Bible Society’s “STATE OF THE BIBLE 2019,” which was conducted by Barna Group. They found:
“Four out of five adults (80%) agree that the values and morals of America are declining…As a follow-up question, adults who said they believe morality is on the decline were asked to determine what they thought was most responsible for declining values from a list of three options…26% attribute the decline to a lack of Bible reading.”
You can see that the percentage among those who believe morality is declining has spiked in regards to Bible reading as opposed to other secular aspects which has dropped since last year’s survey. I know I don’t have to tell you that morality is on the decline, but to see the correlation with bible reading was an eye opener. So how do we stem the tide? The answer can be found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) says:
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
How different would the world be if everyone humbled themselves, prayed, sought God and stopped sinning? The key is to…
Pray for guidance
Seek God’s face
Turn from your wicked ways
I truly feel that we can shed the baggage of the past if we would open God’s Word. But it comes back to the initial question…Do you believe in the validity of the Word of God? I pray that you would trust in the faithfulness of God as Jeremiah did and believe completely in the WHOLE Bible. Don’t let the lies of the enemy influence the present which WILL rob the future.
In the series you “will learn the attributes of God, which will give you fresh perspective into His character and heart. You’ll be encouraged as you learn more about your heavenly Father who never changes and loves you more than you’ll ever know.”
And finally, here is a great song called “Hear Us From Heaven” by New Life Worship which ties beautifully into this.
Yesterday we had a strong thunderstorm roll through our area that brought lighting and hail which got me thinking about this this Thought for the Day. What comes to mind when you read the title of this post?If you were like me, and grew up with the classic TV show “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” an image of Linus with his security blanket may come to mind. Or maybe you may be thinking about the Downy Infusions Calm TV Commercial that shows a cute little boy who is awakened by a thunder and lightning storm outside. As he runs down the hall scared to Mommy and climbs onto her bed, he smells a fragrance coming from one of the blankets that immediately calms him by the lavender scent. Instead of staying in bed with his Mommy, he grabs the blanket and goes back to his bed smelling it all the way. While I could write about either one of these, the inspiration came from my “four-legged son” Jake, who like the frightened young boy, is also terrified by thunderstorms and goes running to his “Mommy.” We always know when a storm is coming because Jake starts shaking like a leaf and incessantly panting. And last night was no different, he was a mess and would not calm down. I remember one day, my wife sent me these photos because Jake was freaking out so bad that he pushed his way into the shower and then tried climbing onto the bed.
Now as you may be chuckling, it’s actually really sad to see him suffering so bad from the anxiety of the impending storm. No amount of petting or hugging or soothing words could settle Jake down. Only one thing helps him…
His ThunderShirt. Forgive me if this seems like a promotion, but it really works (and I receive no kickbacks for saying so, hahaha!) The website says that it…
“Applies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant.”
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In the post, we talked about how if we go to God with our anxieties, He WILL be help us through anything!! A common misconception of Christianity is that once you give your life over to God, and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, everything in your life should be sunshine and roses! BUT THAT SIMPLY IS NOT TRUE! We live in a fallen, broken world in which God-fearing, Jesus believing, Holy Spirit filled Christians lose their jobs, contract cancer, or experience the death of a loved one. However, the Bible offers encouragement throughout the pages which can help us to deal with our worry and fear, which is of course is completely normal to experience as we go through the storms of life. In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Be Strong and Courageous ★, I shared about our daughter heading to Atlanta for a three-day training camp before heading to Eswatini (formally known as Swaziland) and South Africa for a two-month Missions Trip, and the anxiety we were feeling having our first-born child on the other side of the world over 9,000 miles away from us! God spoke to me through Joshua 1:6-9 to “Be strong and courageous” and trust that she would be alright. Well the 2 months came and went, and she arrived safely home from Africa with incredible stories of how God worked in and through her.
Today I would like to unpack the context of the anchor passage of Philippians 4:6-7 because as you have heard me say in the past, context is everything. Like anything, it always come down to a choice.
Will you CHOOSE to WORRY or TRUST God?
Will you CHOOSE to TRY TO CONTROL EVERYTHING or LET GO and LET GOD HANDLE IT?
Will you CHOOSE to LISTEN TO THE LIES OF DEVIL that God is not good, or WILL YOU REMEMBER how He took care of you in the past and BELIEVE that God is faithful?
So, let’s look at the verses that bookend our anchor passage that can help us find where true comfort can be found. Philippians 4:4-5 (NLT) says:
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”
That is a tough one, right? To “always be full of joy,” easier said than done, but the way we gain victory is “in the Lord,” not through “white-knuckle” effort on our part. The only think we must do is choose to believe that the Lord is good, that He is for us and not against us, and that He is able to do more than we can ever expect! As we do this, then the need of a “security blanket” to comfort us through the “storms” will not be necessary. Comfort which typically is not a blanket or ThunderShirt but rather something that comes from a bottle, prescription or something altogether illegal. Comfort items that before I came to Christ, I tried to fill the void in my heart but to no avail! Depression, fear, anxiety WILL NEVER BE CURED with another drink, pill or _______ (fill in the blank.) If only I knew the truth of Philippians 4 back then!
Let’s look at the other book end which is Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT) which is the application portion…
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
What we focus on is what we will experience. We need to “keep putting into practice” and as we do our faith will be built up and our worry will wither away! It is all about discipline and training ourselves to look to God instead of whatever “blanket” we got to which only covers the problem, it will never fix the root issue! I will close with this truth from Jimmy Evans,
“Fear is expecting the Devil to move. Faith is expecting God to move.”
And in John 16:33 (The Passion Translation) Jesus made this promise…
“And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!””
Through a relationship with Jesus, you can conquer the world!
If you want to develop that relationship, check out these posts:
If you are old enough to recognize this, here is a trip down memory lane so that you can listen what internet connectivity sounded like back in 1990-something! Click this link to Hear
For those who have never experienced the dial-up connection speed of the classic 56k modem, it would sometimes take 5-10 minutes to connect to the World Wide Web and many times it would fail, making you start the process all over again. Those were dark days for browsing the internet and sending/receiving emails! Hahaha! What a different world we live in today as we now walk around with supercomputers in the palm of our hand, and if it takes 5 seconds to load a web page, or if an email does not send immediately it feels like forever! Today the “FCC has defined broadband, or fast internet, as internet with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps since 2015.” Many people geek out on download speeds but did you know that there was an Old Testament character who had a download speed that crushed 25 Mbps.
Today’s Thought was inspired from a passage that is not widely preached or read…2 Kings 6:24-30 (NLT) which says:
“Some time later, however, King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army and besieged Samaria. As a result, there was a great famine in the city. The siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver, and a cup of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver.
Forgive the introduction but can you say EWWWWWW… “a cup of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver!!!” That must have been one long siege that not only was it worth so much, but that the people were actually so hungry that they ate dove’s feces!!! Yuck! Okay, back to the passage…
“One day as the king of Israel (Jehoram) was walking along the wall of the city, a woman called to him, “Please help me, my lord the king!”
He answered, “If the Lord doesn’t help you, what can I do? I have neither food from the threshing floor nor wine from the press to give you.” But then the king asked, “What is the matter?”
She replied, “This woman said to me: ‘Come on, let’s eat your son today, then we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. Then the next day I said to her, ‘Kill your son so we can eat him,’ but she has hidden her son.”
When the king heard this, he tore his clothes in despair. And as the king walked along the wall, the people could see that he was wearing burlap under his robe next to his skin.”
2 Kings 6:24-30 is one of the most disturbing passages ever! I cannot believe that the two women even discussed the idea of killing their children, and then worse yet eating them! But if that’s not sick enough, the fact that one of the women did kill her son with and eat him with the other woman is absolutely unbelievable!!! I believe if I were in that situation, I would sacrifice myself first! Disturbing!!!! I looked up this passage in a commentary and they pointed out that God warned Israel that this curse would come upon the Israelites if they rejected the covenant they made with Him, I don’t have time to unpack this, but check out Deuteronomy 28:52-53 for the context. But what I wanted to point was what King Jehoram said in 2 Kings 6:31:
“May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t separate Elisha’s head from his shoulders this very day,” the king vowed.”
God promised back in Deuteronomy that a curse was coming if the people disobeyed Him but instead of blaming God, King Jehoram decided to take it out on the Prophet Elisha that the siege happened and was ready to kill him! It was 2 Kings 6:32-33 (NLT) that blew me away when I read it the other morning!
“Elisha was sitting in his house with the elders of Israel when the king (Jehoram) sent a messenger to summon him. But before the messenger arrived, Elisha said to the elders,
“A murderer (the King of Israel) has sent a man to cut off my head. When he arrives, shut the door and keep him out. We will soon hear his master’s steps following him.”
While Elisha was still saying this, the messenger arrived. And the king said, “All this misery is from the Lord! Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?””
Did you catch it?? Elisha got an instant download from God that danger was approaching! How amazing is that? The Prophet Elisha was so connected to God that he received an immediate alert that danger was coming for him. In the post, ★ Thought for the Day – The Holy Spirit is Our Spider Sense ★, we looked at how the Holy Spirit is our “early warning system” about the activities of the enemy, similar to how Spiderman, The Holy Spirit is “Our Spider Sense.” Just like Elisha, when we have a connection to the Holy Spirit, we will have his protection. Long before Elisha, God revealed in Job 33:14-18 (NLT) that:
“For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride. He protects them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death.”
God is always speaking to us; the question is are we listening? Just like God had promised Israel that He would bless them if they would obey, the same is true for us. In Joel 2:12-13 (NLT), the prophet gave A Call to Repentance…
“That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”
And just a few verses late in Joel 2:28 (NLT), the Lord made this promised:
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.”
The amazing thing is that throughout history, God has been speaking to us, calling us back to Himself, desiring a relationship with you and I! You may be saying to yourself, these passages are all from the Old Testament well I am glad you asked. In Acts 2:17 (NLT), as Peter was addressing the people on the Day of Pentecost, he quoted Joel 2:28!
“‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.”
I truly believe that we are living in the last days and that God is pouring out His Spirit for all who will seek Him… Today, you have the choice, will you open the book and find out for yourself!
I love the Bible and all that it offers…HOPE, LOVE and the PROMISE that God will never leave us or forsake us, as well as the truth of Romans 10:13 (NLT)…
“For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””
The choice is yours!
Want to dig deeper? If you are interested to read more on this topic check out these posts called:
Today is my 45th birthday which has been quite relaxing!! For the first time since I started working, I took this day off. Not sure why, but I started thinking this year about things that I have not done before like taking off for my birthday, growing a full beard and really wanting to go to Colorado to escape the oppressive heat Texas has been under for the past few months. Well the first 2 can be checked off so I guess 2 out 3 isn’t bad.
Yesterday, a cold front came in so though I did not get to Colorado for my birthday, I am getting to enjoy some cooler temps which allowed me to go for an 11-mile bike ride, something that I have not enjoyed since the heat came in June! It got me thinking about how blessed I feel not that I have been a follow of Jesus since 1998 and how much I know that God loves me. He has blessed me so much even though for so many years I wanted nothing to do with Him! God has blessed me with a beautiful wife and (2) amazing daughters who are this Daddy’s pride and joy! I also had a great mother who sacrificed so much for our family, raising my brother, sister and I as a single mother working herself to the bone to provide for us. She passed away in 2016, but through our whole life, she taught us the value of family and about being a person of integrity; two values that I strive to embody myself and pass-on to my daughters. I would not be the man I am without her tireless efforts to model the right way to live. (If you’re are interested you can read this post called ★ Thought for the Day – Tribute to My Mom ★). Well today being my birthday and all, I have just been dwelling on the Goodness of God and how His mercy has never failed me! All my life He has been right by my side!
Psalms 139:13-18 (ESV) is so beautiful reminder of God’s omnipresence!!
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”
God knows me so intimately, He “knitted me together in my mother’s womb!” and “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” He knows everything I need before I even know it and has planned out every day of my life before a single had passed!! Wow! As I type this, tears are welling up in me because of His great love for me!! Thank you, Father, for your love!! Back in May of this year my church had an amazing conference called the “Men’s Summit.”
The theme was…“Live to Know God and Make Him Known”
Which was based on 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (ESV)…
“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
Isn’t that incredible? If you love God, you are completely known by Him. He was there at our conception molding us within our mother’s womb and is with us every day! I am so thankful for that reality!
There is a song called “Goodness of God” from Bethel Music that I have listened to it over and over which conveys what I have been feeling.
“And all my life You have been faithful And all my life You have been so, so good With every breath that I am able Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God”
Now the second part of the Men’s Summit Theme is to “Make Him Known,” that is what this blog is all about! I write about the “goodness of God,” because no one wants to hear me sing! Hahaha! Now I am sure that there may be readers of this post that may question whether God really is faithful or good, but I can tell you with all sincerely and assurance that regardless of whether you want God in your life, He wants you! If you want to learn more you can check out this post called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★
To learn the difference between a religion vs. a relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Another good way to get to know God, is to get in His Word, The Bible. Proverbs 23:12 (ESV) says:
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.”
You cannot grow unless you are willing to apply yourself. As a result, I KNOW WHO I AM, and you can too!
I promise if you do, your life will be forever changed, and you too can feel what it is liked to be FULLY KNOWN.
If you want to dig deeper on this topic, check out these related posts:
We had an early morning today getting our daughter to the airport for the first flight out. Our daughter is on her way to for a three day training camp before heading to Eswatini (formally known as Swaziland) and South Africa for a two month missions trip. As a father of a recent high school graduate (literally less than a week ago – 5/24/2019), it is hard to let my 18-year-old go off to the other side of the world over 9,000 miles away!
So when I see the words “Be Strong and Courageous” I am stretched today! Our family is going through a lot of “firsts” with our daughter this past month…first prom, first high school graduation, and now today the first flight alone in which she is travelling 719 miles away from home. As I type this, my baby girl is at the 683-mile mark…thanks to to the Flight Tracker, hahaha! For months now we have surrounded this trip in prayer and fasting, trusting that God will take care of the details but now that it is here I am struggling a bit, which is normal.
The Holy Spirit prompted me with a passage to comfort me and another man who needed some reminding too! His name was Joshua. I am going through the YouVersion Reading Plan called “The One Year® Chronological Bible” and the reading recently was from Joshua 1:6-9 (NLT) in which God was speaking to Joshua directly to encouraged him before going into the battle with the people of Jericho:
““Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. STUDY THIS BOOK OF INSTRUCTION CONTINUALLY. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.””
Wow did I need that today!! Now these words were penned over 2,500 years ago but are still relevant for us today! I think the Old Testament gets a bad rap sometimes as being antiquated and inconsequential, however when you read Joshua 1:6-9, it is a great example not only of God’s omnipresence BUT also that we WILL face adversity and have to struggle in life EVEN with God on our side! In (4) verses God says to the newly appointed leader of the Israelite Nation, “Be strong and courageous” (3) times! That tells me that Joshua (and myself) need to work out our faith and trust God regardless of circumstances!
And how do we do that? Well that is right in the middle in verse 8, which says…
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
So, the question I have for you is, are you finding yourself drowning with the stresses of life with little hope? And if so, where do you find comfort? In your twitter feed or the water cooler advice section? The passage is clear, if you want to prosper and succeed, we must be meditating on the word of God to hear God’s voice. And if you do, verse 9 brings it home with the third reminder…
“This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I love the image of the little girl in the cape and mask, so fearless and ready to take on the world! That is how I say my daughter today as she went through security, turned back with a smile from ear to ear and waved good-bye. My daughter never ceases to amaze me, as she steps out in faith to go on this 2-month adventure to a place she’s never been, with people she’s never met before, she is trusting that God will direct her steps to minister to people who are desperately in need physically, emotionally and spiritually. Oh, that I may I have the same boldness to share my faith boldly! And you know it does not need to be in South Africa, it can be with the person in the next cubicle or the checkout person at the supermarket or someone at the lunch table at school. The word from God in this passage is that should not let fear stop us from being a conduit for His love, mercy and forgiveness to flow to those around us.
Before I finished writing this, I received these (3) texts from my daughter that put me to ease and reminded me that God is with her wherever she goes!
Got my bag
Meeting up with two of the other girls who are already here too
Maybe today you are facing some life changes like me or a bad report from the doctor or the loss of a job, if that’s you, listen to the words of God…Be Strong. Be Courageous. Be Fearless. Be Encouraged.
Trust in Him today to carry you through. I encourage you to press into God’s word like never before to help give you strength for whatever struggle you may be facing today!
If you want to dig deeper on this topic, check out these related posts:
HE IS RISEN INDEED! If you have grown up in church, you may recognize this familiar response to the statement that the pastor would greet everyone on Easter morning…
“He is Risen!”
Then the congregation would respond….
“He is Risen Indeed!”
Today is a reminder of Jesus overcoming death, of hope and new beginnings! It is a great day!! Without Easter, our faith is dead. The foundation of Christianity is that Jesus conquered death!! Three days ago on Good Friday as we remembered the day that Jesus was nailed to the cross, I was also remembering my mother as it was the 3rd anniversary of my Mom’s passing and when I looked out in the backyard I saw the rose-bush we planted in her memory in full bloom! I could not help but feel that this was God’s way of reminding me that my Mom is right there with Him and Jesus! Now you may say, well it is Springtime so of course it is in full bloom, but my impression is that my love Heavenly Father wanted to give me a sign. As life is springing up anew from its winter slumber all around, Christians paused on April 19 to remember the day that Jesus paid the ultimate price and surrendered His Will and allowed Himself to be crucified up on that cross, see John 10:18.
Romans 5:1-8 (NLT) says:
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
I especially love verse 8!
What a beautiful picture! I want to ask you, where do you stand today with Jesus on this Easter Sunday? Is Easter about a bunny and some colored eggs or do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God who died on a Roman cross over 2,000 years ago to save your soul from your sins?
In John 11:25-26 (NLT) it says:
“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
In verse 27 Martha made this declaration…
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.””
Do you still reject the truth? God has done everything He could do to restore you to Him today, you just have to make that choice whether or not you’ll receive the free great gift of grace and accept Jesus as your Savior. I pray that you will! If you would like to know how to take the next step check out this post that will lead you in a simple prayer…★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★
We have been in a series unpacking the significance of the Holy Spirit, The Unsung Hero of the Trinity. If you have missed the previous posts you can start here ★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 1 ★ in which we looked at the significance of not only reading the Bible but also asking the Holy Spirit to help reveal what God’s Will and purpose is contained within the pages. In Part 2, we saw all the benefits that the Holy Spirit can bring to our lives and that through a relationship with “HIM,” how we can become more like Jesus. At the end of that post, under the “DIG DEEPER” section, I shared a powerful sermon series called the “God I Never Knew” by Robert Morris.
Here is the series description to help you make the decision to watch them:
“The most misunderstood person in the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. Many people don’t know how to interact with the Holy Spirit or what His presence offers us. In this six-week series, The God I Never Knew, Pastor Robert Morris clearly explains that the Holy Spirit’s chief desire is for relationship—to offer us the encouragement and guidance of a trusted friend. He moves beyond theological jargon, religious tradition, and cultural misconceptions to clarify what the Holy Spirit promises to do in your life.”
I tell you all of this because I have never heard a more biblically sound, straight forward teaching on the Holy Spirit. If you are struggling to wrap your mind around who I have been referring to as “The Unsung Hero of the Trinity” then this 6-week series is a must see! I personally have watched it 3 times! In addition to all that, I wanted to be upfront that I will be sharing a lot from Robert Morris in this post because of its applicability. So far, we have talked about “WHY” we should desire a relationship with the Holy Spirit, today we will unpack “HOW” this happens. I pray that God will open the eyes of your heart (Ephesians 1:18-19) to hear the heart cry of God to accept not only Jesus BUT also the Holy Spirit! I believe that part of the trouble people have with this concept of building a relationship with the Holy Spirit is because the interaction with Him is from the inside. Whereas there are numerous accounts all through the Old Testament where God spoke audibly to human beings (see ★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★ post where we looked at this); and obviously we have the (4) Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) of Jesus’ time here on earth as well as in Acts of the Apostles 1:4-9 (NLT) where the final instruction from Jesus is recorded…
“Once when He was eating with them, He commanded them,
“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him,
“Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
“The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see Him.”
The very last words that Luke records here in the book of Acts revolves around the relationship that so many people ignore or are afraid of! That is unbelievable to me which is why I am so passionate about the truth of Bible being taught. I’d like to focus now on the two red underlinedportions of that passage as they are the linchpin to our faith. In the message “Does He Baptize?” Robert Morris covered that there are (3) scriptural baptisms and unpacks where each one it one is located in scripture.
I don’t think that there is a more divisive topic than the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.Some people don’t believe that it is real, and others refuse to even consider it because of abuses they have experienced by Christians or Churches who have said or done things in the name of the Holy Spirit. But when you read Matthew 3:11 (NLT), it is clear that it is real as John the Baptist made this declaration to everyone about Jesus:
“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
This was not to the (12) disciples but to everyone who was around as John was calling people to repentance and baptizing them. Robert Morris made this point that since the Gospel of John covers the last year of Jesus’ life, while Matthew, Mark and Luke cover first (2) years of Jesus’ ministry, there are very few things that are in all (4) Gospels. In fact, there are only (4) stories in common:
Isn’t it interesting that The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is so significant that it is only 1 of 4 stories that mention that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Now if this is the case don’t you think that we should do everything possible to develop a relationship with Him. Recently I read 1 John 4:4 in the New Living Translation (NLT) and my eyes were opened! 1 John 4:4 (NLT) says:
“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”
Notice the capital “S” which is for the Holy Spirit and then the second reference with the lowercase “s” which represents the satanic forces that are coming against us daily. I had misunderstood this verse because in other versions it says “He” so I thought it was referencing Jesus but as I have always said context is everything – Take a look at John 1:1-4, it is clear that the passage is referencing the Holy Spirit!
I truly believe we are living in the end days (which you can read about the post ★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★) and if we are going to win the war we’re in then we must change our approach in our defenses! And if you want to know how to defeat Satan and his minions, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit!!
I have always loved 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT) which says…
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
But just recently I noticed verse 19 which I think cannot be discounted:
“Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.”
Could it be that if we “stiff-arm” the Holy Spirit we jeopardize the ability to follow God’s will for us to be joyful, praying and thankful in all circumstances?
I will close with this prophetic passage from Joel 2:28-29 (NLT) about The Lord’s Promise of His Spirit which was penned 800 years before Jesus was born:
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.”
Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on verse Joel 2:29…
“We live in the great day when God has poured out His Spirit on all believers in Christ, filling them and empowering them to serve Him in holiness and great joy. (Romans 8:11). God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us in full measure at the point of salvation. However, a Spirit-filled believer is one who has surrendered himself or herself completely to the control of the Holy Spirit. We permit the Spirit to empower us in greater measure by submitting to God in obedience. Are you allowing the Lord to fill you today?”
So, do you see Holy Spirit having a vital role in your life and if not, will you make a change today? The power of the Holy Spirit is available for all believers in Jesus Christ. You can tap into the limitless resources of God, all you need to do is ask. I want to challenge you to ask God to activate the Holy Spirit in your life so that the “Fruit” will be evident and the gifts of the Spirit will be released in your life to put feet to your faith and to minister to those people that are in your life!
“The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. If this doctrine is true, then the implications are so profound and far-reaching that every part of our lives should be affected.”
I wholeheartedly believe that there should be evidence in your life that you are pursuing God. Another way to refer to it is “fruit.” If we are truly pursuing God and trying to be more like Jesus, then we should see The Fruit of the Spirit manifested in ever-increasing amounts. Galatians 5:22-25 (NASB) says:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
Each weekday I have the privilege to be a part of Bible Studies in which I try to challenge the men at the table to press in and seek to gain knowledge about the faith that they profess. I have been having conversations with them in the past 6 months asking, “What do you think of the Holy Spirit?” The answers have been quite amazing and revealing on how the devil has blinded believers in regards to the Holy Spirit’s role in our life. God has been stirring in my heart that belief in the Trinity is paramount to the health of the church and the growth of each believer. I recently finished a devotional from Max Lucado in which he made this point about the Holy Spirit:
“If you want to see believers hem, haw, and search for words, just ask, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” Most believers understand the Father and the Son, but they are perplexed about the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It’s as if they’ve settled for a two-thirds God.” (From the YouVersion reading plan ‘Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives On The Promises Of God’.)
What do you think? Do you believe 2 out 3 is enough? “Are you settling for a two-thirds God,” that loving God and accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is enough?? It’s almost like people are living with an understanding of 1 Corinthians 8:6 (NLT) only:
“But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.”
While belief in the Father and Son is critical, we must learn that about the 3rd person in the Trinity who is equally important. In the post called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Whose Body Are You A Part Of? ★, we unpacked that the church is ONE body and that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body, (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The Holy Spirit is part of the Triune or Trinity; consisting of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who are all omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (ever-present always).
It would be good to read that post in tandem with this one as we will not cover the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” at all as we covered that already in that post, other than to say how important it is that we operate in them! (See 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 for the list of gifts available). But I think that there are many who claim to know the Holy Spirit yet are living a life of powerlessness. Francis Chan referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Forgotten God.” He said:
So, the first question I have for you…Do you know that the Holy Spirit is a person? He is not some vapor or an “it,” as were some of the responses to my question. Some guys straight out said they did not know much about the Holy Spirit at all. And some beliefs expressed were not biblically based but rather what a denomination taught them. The Holy Spirit really is the Unsung Hero of the Trinity. Now you may think that that is a leap but by the end of this series I pray that your mind will be opened to how amazing the He is. There are so many instances that the Holy Spirit does not receive the praise for all that He does in our lives and worse than that, He is oftentimes called an “it” or stiff-armed or rejected as something “weird” and to be avoided. The funny thing is, if people just opened the Bible, they would see how many references that clearly show that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person. For me, I love John 14:15-17 (NLT) when Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to the His Disciples:
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him. But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.”
Look at how many times Jesus references the Holy Spirit as “He” or “Him.” I was just reading the first book of the Bible and look at WHO is mentioned in verse 2!
1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2 (NLT)
I have read those verses over and over and until now I have never noticed that the Holy Spirit is mentioned at the very beginning of The Account of Creation! And then in Genesis 1:26a (NLT) it says:
“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in OUR image, to be like us.””
I have always read verse 26 as God and Jesus, BUT how can you ignore that the Holy Spirit is mentioned long before Jesus is. We are made in the image of the Holy Trinity, including the Holy Spirit.When we push away the Holy Spirit or refuse to invite Him into our life, it is just like rejecting God the Father or God the Son because we were made in God the Holy Spirit’s image too! Why is this important? Because when we push away Holy Spirit, we are disconnecting ourselves from the power source. In Acts 1:8 (NLT), just before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He said to the disciples:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Holy Spirit is a gift to us from God the Father for us to help us to tell everyone about Jesus to spread the Good News. Before Jesus left He also said in John 16:7-14 (NLT)…
“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever He receives from me.”
Advocate means “a person who pleads on someone else’s behalf.” The Holy Spirit intercedes and works on our behalf to help understand God’s Will for our life. Robert Morris said it this way:
Jesus said in John 14:26 (ESV)…
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
The Holy Spirit offers so much to anyone who will just ask. Unfortunately, so many Christians are ignorant of all that He can provide and have believed the lie that then enemy saturated the church into believing that you should stay as far away as possible because the Holy Spirit is “out there” for those crazy believers.
Jesus taught about prayer in Luke 11:1-12, after His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. Part of that teaching is a prayer referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” which is a great model prayer for every believer to go to the Father. Interestingly though as we have seen time and time again, the Holy Spirit is quickly mentioned right after Jesus concludes with the prayer in Luke 11:13 (ESV)…
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Right there it shows that we need to Go to God the Father and ask for the Holy Spirit in our life! I will close with this last thought. If you were to survey Christians with this question, “What is your purpose here on Earth?” Some common responses may be:
To glorify God in all that I say and do.
To seek first His righteousness above all else!
To become more and more like Jesus.
To make a difference for the Kingdom of God.
I dare say that all of that can be can be accomplished by asking the Holy Spirit to be a vital part of your day to day life. My word for 2019 that I felt impressed upon me was “Transformed.” As we were going through 2 Corinthians in December with one of the Bible Studies, we came up Chapter 3 verses 17-18 (NLT)
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So, all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
That is so good! What great insight to see the significance that the Holy Spirit plays in accomplishing God’s Will while honoring Him and witnessing to the world. Do you want to know how we become more like Jesus? Well the Apostle Paul just showed us, though the Holy Spirit! My prayer for 2019 and I hope yours to is to be changed more and more into His glorious image! I want the faith I have in God to spread far and wide! Lord may I be a useful conduit of your love, grace and forgiveness to flow to everyone I encounter! Holy Spirit please give me power to be more and more like Jesus! Amen!
I saw this infographic from the book called “12 ways Your Phone Is Changing You” by Tony Reinke that I thought was quite revealing. Our phone is an ever-present part of our life and can adversely affect our relationship with God if we are not careful. And it got me thinking how are we stewarding the time with our device? We hold more computing power in the palm of our hand then it took to land a man on the moon back on July 20, 1969 and yet I dare say if we are being honest, most of the time we don’t really use it for anything of lasting value. From Twitter/Facebook to Netflix to YouTube, we spend hours upon hours absorbing useless information or gossip or mindless videos. Now I am not saying if you have those apps on your phone, that you don’t have a good relationship with God, (for I have all 4!)…But what I am saying is that if they are used to the extreme, we could end up pushing aside what is truly important like our relationship with God, our spouses, our child(ren) and/or our friends. We live in a time when we are “more connected” through our devices and yet study after study shows that we are “more disconnected” from others then at any point in history. And for those who call themselves Christians, that phone in your hand offers access to thousands of resources at your fingertips. From blogs to podcasts to live streaming of church services across the world, the potential to grow deeper with God is greater today in 2019 than in any previous generation and yet Bible literacy is at an all time low.
Today I want to explore what is available that can change that downward spiral and can enrich our lives far greater than the latest iPhone if we will just get in sync with the true power source…The Holy Spirit, the Unsung Hero of the Holy Trinity! 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 (NLT) is such a powerful passage to illustrate how significant the Holy Spirit is to understand the the Bible. In verses 11 and 12, the Apostle Paul instructs that:
“No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.”
You want to know the mind of God? What God’s Will is for your life? How to be successful in your walk with Him? Well…first and foremost you need to read the Bible and plug into the Holy Spirit who will open our minds to reveal truth in the Bible. I saw this image and thought it was the perfect way to kick-start our 3-part series on the Unsung Hero of the Trinity…
“The Christian who neglects the Holy Spirit is like a lamp that’s not plugged in.”
Simple enough right but there is so much misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit and “fake news” that is demonically inspired to keep you and I from truly flourishing in our walk with God. So what are you plugged into? Do you think that you are operating at full capacity in your walk with God? Paul continues to explain the need to rely on the Holy Spirit in verses 13-14 of 1 Corinthians…
“When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”
The Holy Spirit spoke through Paul and his co-laborers as they went along in their missionary journeys preaching and planting churches. Today we have The Bible as a record of those truths to draw us to Jesus Christ to be saved and then to be trained and matured through the inspiration of God’s Spirit. However if we never open the Bible we could find ourselves drained and out of power. That is why it is critical that we stay in the scriptures. When we do we will have peace that transcends understanding and joy in midst of trouble. That is of course if you are pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ. (If you don’t know what that means check out this post called…★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★)
Paul concludes his instruction in 1 Corinthians 15-16:
‘Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
John Piper made the two points about this passage about the “Bible speaking from God” and humans being “moved by the Holy Spirit”…
“First, they spoke from God. What they have to say is not merely from their own limited perspective. They are not the origin of the truth they speak; they are the channel. The truth is God’s truth. Their meaning is God’s meaning.
Second, not only is what they spoke from God, but how they spoke it is controlled by the Holy Spirit. “Men, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God.” God did not simply reveal truth to the writers of Scripture and then depart in hopes that they might communicate it accurately. Peter says that in the very communicating of it they were carried by the Holy Spirit. The making of the Bible was not left to merely human skills of communication; the Holy Spirit himself carried the process to completion.”
I have seen that happen in my life that as I have plugged into the Holy Spirit I have been moved into greater acts of service! God has birthed a passion in me to share the truth of the Bible, which I wholeheartedly believe that we must not only read it, BUT meditate on it every day! I believe that comes from the Holy Spirit if we will be press in. But like Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 14, the Bible “sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it,” there will be naysayers. In an article called the “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read,” the editors of GQ magazine made the staggering statement that the Holy Bible is an irrelevant book that does not even need to be opened! Not surprisingly, I vehemently disagree with the editors of GQ magazine. If you have spent any time on this site, you know my viewpoint all too well that the answer to all life’s problems can be found in the book GQ feels “you don’t have to read!” Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) says it all:
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Do you believe that the Bible is living and active? That by reading it we can be changed! I will close with this quote from Paul Tripp
“The Bible has the unparalleled ability to soak us at our roots and transform us into an entirely different person.“
Click Here for the continuation of our series into the Holy Spirit and to see how indeed you can be transformed!
I love this comic! The satirical truth of this resonates in my spirit as so many activities fill our calendar, it really is hard to fit everything in those 25 boxes. And that is the muse for this Thought. Three years ago God placed on my heart to study the Christmas Story in greater detail than I have ever done before. It led me into a series of posts that lasted for 25 days, exploring the “Reasons” that we should be “Thankful” during the Christmas Advent Season; while at the same time, delving into the all-too-familiar stories that have become commonplace in order to gain a fresh perspective on the birth of Christ! It was an amazing endeavor, one which meant a lot to me in my personal walk with Jesus who truly is the Reason for the Season!
As part of the series, I posted this blog called ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★ encompassed a post from my daughter’s Instagram page called Undeserved Grace that she posted 4 years ago. She is now 18 years old and in her senior year of High School with many decisions before as well as a long list of things to do to prepare for the next season of life. The past 6 months has been filled with filling out applications, visiting colleges and lots and lots of discussions of what to do next as well as finals and end the semester papers.
As we have been incredibly busy coming into this season it got me thinking about the other “to do lists” that we have feverishly been trying to cross off…
What a second…that is the idealized list that we all wish that we were concerned with right? But the real list looks more like this…
…In an effort to get the house decorated, trimming the Christmas tree, shopping for gifts and making the endless lists of things that MUST GET DONE (take a breath…), I wonder has the reason for this season been lost or should I say Compartmentalized? It may be cliché, but the birth of Jesus Christ is the reason for the Season! Now there certainly is nothing wrong with family traditions and enjoying the holidays BUT when Jesus is reduced to just being mentioned on one day or maybe it is only the obligatory hour in church then something is seriously wrong. Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV) tells us…
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Because of Jesus’ birth more than 2,000 years we have access to be adopted in family of God. That is what the 25th of December and all the preparation should be about. Let me ask you when was the last time you read the Christmas story? Part of the preparations that God placed on my heart was to not let the Christmas season go by without reading about the birth of Christ in totality, here are the major stories:
As you read through the miraculous circumstances that brought about the birth of the Savior of the world, if Jesus is just a small or insignificant aspect of your life that you would…
…STOP COMPARTMENTALIZING CHRIST IN YOUR LIFE, and fully embrace the greatest gift we could ever receive! He should not be relegated to a month or day or hour but should be a part of everyday. Whether it is having morning coffee with my wife or driving my youngest daughter to school or having or sitting down for dinner with the family after a long day at work, Jesus wants to be part of every aspect of my life. My prayer for you is that you would experience that this Christmas season and that the only thing that you are truly concerned with is how to celebrate that God gave us the gift of His Son Jesus!
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Merry Christmas and may the Joy of Christ fill your hearts and bless you!
If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:
In preparation for this post I stumbled onto this TIME Magazine Cover with this Tagline: “Why Mom Liked You Most” which I think many people could resonate with. I know I always thought my brother and sister got the biggest slice of cake! Hahaha! In the post called ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★ we talked about how our family of origin can have a serious effect on who we become. I’d highly recommend you read it first because today’s Thought will build upon that foundation. In the post I shared how my Family Juggernaut played a significant role in my development and that it was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, adultery, verbal and physical abuse, all by the time I reached 5 years old! Fast forward 41 years to April 2016, the day after my mom’s funeral when my brother and I had a conversation that would change the trajectory of our lives. But before I delve into that, I wanted to talk some more about Jesus’ Family Situation that we discussed in The Family Juggernaut post. Last time we examined how Jesus’ brothers did not believe He was the Messiah and what that must have been like for Jesus to not have their support. Today I want to look at the issues between Jesus and his brothers from their perspective. I was watching this video clip from Michael Jr. called “What if you were a younger sibling of Jesus?” and almost died laughing.
It’s a hysterical parody on what it might have been like for James to live with the Savior of the World and grow up as Jesus’ little brother. Michael Jr. jested that:
“James had problems. He would go to his parents and you know what they’d say…‘What would Jesus do?’ Then they gave him a bracelet.”
Hahaha! Now I did not grow up with the Messiah, but I am all too familiar with growing up in my big brother’s shadow. He was always the life of the party, the one that was the center of attention. Now I may be dating myself here, but have you ever seen the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond?” Although Raymond was the younger sibling, the comparison is identical to how I felt growing up, that my brother was center of our family just like Raymond was the center of the show. But in that conversation with my brother I discovered how wrong my perspective was. Though I believed that he was Raymond and everybody’s favorite, he believed that the opposite was true! His view of our family dynamic was that I was the favored son of our mother. Guess sibling rivalry is alive and well. But that fateful day just a little over 2 years ago changed our relationship forever! I am reminded of a quote from Steven Furtick’s book “Crash the Chatterbox”:
“The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.”
See my brother and I listened to the chatterbox (aka Satan), and completely bought into the lies that we are not worthy of our mother’s love as much as the other one was. I had preconceived notions of him and his motives, as he did of me as well. That day though we were able to clear the air and God began a healing work through that one conversation!
It really is true what Theodore Roosevelt said:
Absolutely nothing good comes from comparing ourselves to others. It got me thinking about how we view our relationship with our Heavenly Father…Does God play favorites? What do you think? Do you think that He values some people over others? Romans 2:9-11 (NLT) gives some insight…
“9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.
10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.
11 For God does not show favoritism.”
Does this seem to be an oxymoron? How does verse 11 go with verses 9 and 10 when Paul says “for the Jew first and also for the Gentile?”At first I thought it was showing favoritism that the Jews were over the Gentles but I learned a valuable lesson after I sent this question to my Pastor and some buddies. You cannot “a la carte” the Bible. It is very dangerous to grab 2 or 3 verses and develop a belief system from a small passage. Context is everything! My pastor responded back with this great insight…
“After doing a little looking at the text. Romans 2:1-16 is speaking of Gods judgment. The statement “first for the Jew…then to the Gentile…” is not meant to imply a special consideration or favoritism. But rather in light of God’s standard of impartiality, it emphasizes that the ENTIRE human race is dealt with by God. In the way of His judgement both Jew and Greek (all humans) will be dealt with and there will be no favoritism shown. The Jew would have thought that God may not have judgment on them…the same as everyone else because of they were much more “religious”. But God is not partial in His judgment…all will be judged equally according to His Word.”
A light bulb went off for me when I read that because I know that God loves all people and that “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent,” (see 2 Peter 3:8-10,) and be with Him in heaven for all eternity. So if we go back to verse 11, it cannot be any clearer…“For God does not show favoritism.” Besides not picking and choosing a couple of scriptures to form an opinion from, I also was reminded that before I start down a “rabbit trail” of thought, I must look at the Bible in totality – BOTH Old and New Testament to see what the entire book has to say. I recently heard Robert Morris say:
“Though the Bible was written by (39) men, it has One Author.”
That author of course being God Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth! So let’s do some bible drilling…
Deuteronomy 10:17 (NLT) says:
“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.”
God is supreme above all and has no favorites, nor can He be swayed by anything we may say or do or how much we give to the church. We cannot buy God’s love or our way into Heaven. Another Old Testament passage comes from Job 34:19 (NKJV) which is especially poignant as the man Job who was referred to by God as “blameless—a man of complete integrity who feared God and stayed away from evil” (see Job 1:1); BUT yet he went through unbelievable trials. In verse 19 in speaking about God’s character, Job said:
“Yet He is not partial to princes, Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; For they are all the work of His hands.”
“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”
This was a turning point for Peter as Acts 10:9-33 records, he was given (3) visions from God about eating animals that up until that time, the Jewish people held as unclean and taboo to eat. This was God’s way of telling Peter that the Gentiles (or non-Jews) were worthy to receive the Gospel and that he was to go and minister to a Gentile man named Cornelius. And in fact the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit for the first time (see Acts 10:37-48). The Jews were the first to have faith in the One True God, the Gentiles are like the second born into the family to receive salvation. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Titus 2:11 (NLT),
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.”
Unlike how my brother and I viewed each other, God is very clear all through the Bible that we are all worthy to receive the undeserved grace of God. I told you at the beginning of this post that the trajectory of my relationship with my brother was changed by that one conversation. God not only healed the hard feelings we held towards each other due to perceived favoritism, but we have grown closer together even though 1,069 miles separate us. I shared in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ that I host bible studies in my house in Texas, Monday through Friday at 5:00 AM. Since June of this year after my brother and his family visited and attended those studies, he has continued to participate in the bible studies through the use of technology, joining remotely multiple times a week from North Carolina! And through that time, God is working a miracle in our relationship to eradicate the damage that the devil did over the past 20 years! I will close with a passage that my brother and I recently read together from Romans 10:9-13 (NLT):
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
I want to encourage you to do an honest self-evaluation about your relationships. Are you like me, that you have a strained relationship with a brother, or another family member or friend? Then reconcile it today! You will not regret it! I cannot tell you how blessed I feel that after being distant from my brother for so long, today we are closer than ever! And secondly, if you are far from God, or never accepted Jesus, go back to Romans 10:9-13 confess that Jesus is Lord of your life and accept the free gift of grace that is available to everyone!
Today is August 18, 2018 and I have this weird thing about numbers which is why I waited until 8:18 pm to hit post because I love the symmetry of this timestamp…Anyhow that has no bearing on this post, just a random tangent…hahaha! In a recent post called ★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Plug or a Conduit? ★, we unpacked how as Christ Followers, we are doing one of two things when it comes to our faith…we are either a “plug” or a “conduit” for God’s grace, love and forgiveness to flow, or not flow out to those around us. We looked at this through the lens of Acts 20:24 (NIV) which if you recall the Apostle Paul said:
I was reading the context of Act 20:24 and its interesting how this power verse is book-ended in Acts 20:22-23 (NIV)…
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”
And in than verse 25…
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.”
Paul was obeying the Holy Spirit’s leading even though he knew it would lead to pain and suffering; and even prophesied that the people would not see him again! Now that is a convicting example! It’s a funny thing about adversity, it has one of two effects on people…it either causes people to run from God or towards Him. Christians around the world are persecuted, imprisoned and martyred for their faith, and yet in America the statistics show something very troubling. Here is a great article from the Barna Research Group called “State of the Bible 2017: Top Findings“:
When you review these statistics, it begs the question, why is Bible engagement so low? I pray that this post will change your viewpoint if you find yourself either hostile, skeptical or neutral towards the Bible. The Apostle Paul wrote more books of the New Testament in the Bible and is one of the chief evangelist for Christianity. I have always looked up to Paul and his audacious faith, how he was ready to lay down his life for the Kingdom of God! Any yet I too have failed to be consistent in reading my Bible from time to time whether because I was too tired or rather wanted to Netflix a show instead. How about you? If you honestly evaluated your reading trends, where do you fall?
Another startling statistic that the Barna Group discovered was that:
That is a sad, sad state of affairs. And that saddest part is that they are easy pickens for the enemy to pick them off without the covering of God’s Word to reveal the His plan for our lives and to understand the war we are in. I love this quote from the ‘The Devotional to End All Devotionals‘ by Angela Sanders:
“We read the Bible to expose ourselves to truth and get familiar with it. We study the Bible to take truth in, absorb it, and draw strength from it.
The Bible says that God’s Word is food to Christians. A person without nourishment grows weak, confused, vulnerable, and prone to wander; a Christian who doesn’t study God’s Word does the same.”
That is the whole point of why I have this blog! To open a conversation and invite you to chew on God’s word and let it penetrate our heart and minds! There are so many malnourished people in this world because they won’t just open the book!! I love how The Message translates Matthew 5:6 which says:
Reading the Bible is the best meal we will ever have and the best use of our time!! If you call yourself a Christian I want to encourage you to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul who, after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus (See Acts 22:6-11) spent his life to spread the Gospel of Jesus. Paul fully embraced what Jesus commanded His disciples that must happen if they wanted to follow Him. Matthew 16:24-25 says:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
We must take up our cross, whatever that may be and be willing to bear the weight of whatever may result in our profession of faith in Jesus Christ! It may not be that you are called to be martyred for your faith as the disciples were, but perhaps you will lose friends, or influence or even clients because your integrity will prevent you from being a part of something unethical or immoral. But whatever that may be, will you will to adapt yourself like Paul? In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NLT) Paul gave made a bold statement!
“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ.
When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.
When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ.
Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”
“phrase used when one is agreeing to do what is customary or typical in a particular place or setting.”
Does that not sound like what Paul? Regardless of who Paul ministered to, he would adjust his approach to be as effective as possible. We would do well to follow his example and apply it to our lives today. It’s not easy though is it? To find common ground with everyone, doing everything you can to reach those around you. Paul certainly did just that, there are numerous references in scripture from 1 Thessalonians 2:9 to Acts 20:33-35 and finally in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 but I wanted to highlight two verses in particular…In Acts 18:1-3 we learn that Paul was a tentmaker, and so he had means to earn money on his own and in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 (NLT) Paul told the church of Thessalonica:
“For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.”
We see that Paul and his companions did indeed do everything to spread the Good News to the point that he did not even take any food or pay for their ministry work. Paul sacrificed everything and did everything possible adapt to those around him to make a difference!
I love what Joyce Meyer once said,
“The trademark of a true Christian is the ability to adapt to others. Will you unselfishly adapt to someone else today?”
That is indeed is the true Trademark of a Christian! I will close with a final thought from Paul in Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT)
“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
My prayer for everyone reading this post is for you to understand what your gifts are, and then see how you can put those gifts to practice. Let’s be mission minded like Paul, be willing to adapt ourselves to reach the lost people in our lives and look for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus! So will you unselfishly adapt to someone else today? Remember when in Rome do as the Romans do.
It’s a quick test…PROMISE! Perhaps you are already tuned in to what you have been gifted with, or maybe not so much…this simple little questionnaire will give you some insight to help understand how you can better connect with those around you.
I have been having conversations with a friend of mine who has been haunted by the sins of the past and the mistakes that seem to be preventing him from moving forward in his walk with God. He in Jesus and is actively pursuing a relationship with Him through prayer and reading the Bible but yet there’s something holding him back. Maybe you can relate to this today? Do you find yourself wanting to grow in the truth of God’s Word and to feel clean from your former way of living BUT yet you just can’t seem to overcome the guilt and shame of what you did? Well I have some good news…
First of all, you are not alone, everyone at one point or another have felt this way, that is the Devil’s way of derailing you from your faith growing. It’s much easier to destroy something its infancy stage BEFORE it has a chance to mature and get strong.
Secondly and most importantly, God has already taken care of the guilt and shame over 2,000 years ago when He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (see John 3:16). Here is the antidote to the poison that the Devil has been injecting into our minds which is found in Romans 3:23-26 (NLT)!
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
That’s you. That’s me. Everyone who has ever lived, is living or will live has sinned and fallen woefully short of what God requires of us. But the miraculous thing is, He did not leave us in this fallen state. He sent Jesus in the flesh to face all the temptations and struggles that we do, to live a perfect sinless life and than die in our place! Wow! In verse 24-25 it says:
“Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.
Forgive me for interrupting verse 25, but go back and read that last sentence…seriously go back and read it. God sacrificed Jesus for our sin and we are made right with God by “all the work we do?”. Nope. “By cleaning up our life and becoming perfect through white knuckle will power to not repeat the same mistakes?” Nope. We are made right with when we “believe!” That’s it. Just believe and you are made right with God! Okay let’s get back to verse 25…
“This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He makes sinners right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.
Jesus was the PERFECT sacrifice who died ONCE as the PAYMENT for ALL of mankind to cover EVERY sin that has been committed, is being committed or will ever be committed. Talk about Amazing Grace!! Before I close this Thought for the Day, I want to offer to you a choice. If you have not received the gift of grace from God through belief in Jesus as your Lord and Savior or if you are not sure if you did today if you would go to heaven, then here is a simple prayer that I posted years ago in the ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ that you can pray to make that decision today…Make this your prayer today:
God take this broken, sinful person and change my life. I confess I have made mistakes and acknowledge that I am in need of a Savior. I want a relationship with you. Please forgive me. I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever. Today I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation. In Jesus Name I pray! Amen!
If you truly prayed that prayer, then welcome to the family of God! Here is the truth for everyone who had believed in Jesus from Romans 1:16-17 says:
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.””
Regardless of the poisonous guilt and shame that you have been attacked with, once you have believed in Jesus you are made righteous (which just means in right standing with God,) and have the same power in you (the Holy Spirit) which raised Christ from the dead! No go out in faith and just believe!
Want to dig deeper?
To help you in your next steps check out this 4-part series of posts that I wrote to help you connect God through these (3) Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.
I cannot believe it has already been a month since I started to write this blog after seeing the movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” Life has been busy to say the least, but as I am thrilled to share this post which has become a sort of mantra or rallying cry for me! If you have not seen “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” I highly recommend you watch it as soon as it hits Redbox or when you can stream it because it was absolutely amazing, one of the best movies I have ever seen! Just so you understand me, I don’t say that lightly as I am very leery of Christian films, either because of the cheesy acting/writing or because it does not stay true to what the Bible says; but with this latest release from “Affirm Firms,” I left the theater phenomenally impressed! Great acting, beautiful cinematography and most importantly of all…it is biblically accurate in the telling of the persecution of the early church. Of course there are characters and plot lines not found in the Bible in order to carry the story or fill in the gaps but was done in such a way that honors scripture. Anyhow, it is a must see! As the movie concluded, James Faulkner (who played Paul), quoted 2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT) which is where I wanted to start our Thought for the Day off with…
In the backdrop of this brilliant film, these words penned almost 2,000 years ago came to life like they never have before! As I was telling the guys about what God was speaking to me in how Paul suffered for the Gospel and the impact he has had on the world in my Tuesday morning Bible Study, one of the guys posed this question:
“What will people say at my funeral about me? On my death bed, will I have regrets?”
He said that he wrote his obituary in response to this question, which at first may seem a little morbid, but then I started to think about it. As we discussed this, of course everyone at the table agreed that they would want people to think well of them and have found memories, but I followed up with that consensus to ask: Are we living a life that will render those results? So for me, first and foremost, I would want people to say that I was a Man of God who pursued to embody what Paul said in Titus 1:6-9 that leaders in the church should. I would hope that I would be spoken of that no matter where I went, I was a representative of Jesus Christ (as Colossians 3:15-17 instructs) and ordered my life in service to the Kingdom of God in which the fruits of the Spirit were evident (See Galatians 5:22-23). I would also want to be remembered as a man who strove to be a Godly husband and father to his two daughters and would say that I did my very best to follow Ephesians 5:28-33 and Ephesians 6:4, (which I know I still have work to do). Okay enough about my obituary, time to ask some questions…Have you ever wondered…
“Why am I here on earth? What is my purpose here?”
Of course you have, we all have at some point. It is a question that people have pondered throughout the ages. But I hope to press in a little deeper than the initial question and expose how the enemy will deceive us and distract us from the initial response we may give. But before I do, let’s ask you some more questions.
Do you think you are here to amass great wealth, live in a luxurious house and drive a fancy new car?
Or is it to maximize your stock portfolio and be setup up for life?
Do you long for the day that you can travel the globe or sit on a beach without a care in the world?
I dare say we have all have pursued for all of this and a lot more. Are we trading the eternal for that which will rust and fade away which we cannot take with us when we die?Now I am only 43 years old, but in that relatively short time, I have come to realize that life is for much more than financial security or the accumulation of material possessions or to reach a life of ease. It’s about people and how can I make a difference in their lives. Revolutionary thought? No. But my prayer is that God will cultivate in your heart a fresh awareness of other people’s needs, and that the Holy Spirit would inspire and move you to develop a new plan of action about how you can impact the people in your life whether at home, school, work, or where you play. My daughter made this edit after a mission trip of this quote that she heard from a speaker there which I believe perfectly captures the point:
The answer to this will show whether you are “fighting the good fight” for the Kingdom of God as Paul declared, or if perhaps complacency has creeped in. Long ago I heard the expression that you should “leave people better than you found them,” which I see as much more than a cute cliché, but as something that God has called us to be. When I was meeting with a brother in Christ for a Bible Study on a different day, he shared his life verse with me that is from Acts 20:24 (NLT) which Paul make this incredible declaration:
“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
This so resonated in my spirit because of this question which God has been stirring in me…
“Are You a Plug or a Conduit?”
A plug is interesting in that, it is both a noun and a verb. Merriam-Webster defines it as:
A conduit on the other hand is defined several ways:
So within that context, I want to be a conduit for God’s purpose to flow through me to all those who I come in contact with. When I meet Jesus in heaven I want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.” (See Matthew 25:21). I agree with the Apostle Paul that “my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me.” The last thing I ever want to do is plug up God’s grace, love and truth to reach those who are in need. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 Paul warns about the Day of Judgement when our works will be thrown in the fire and the value of what we do hear will be revealed. In verse 13 we are told:
“But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.”
I know that much of what I have done before knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior will be burned up but what a waste if a lot of my work since receiving the free gift of salvation and having the truth that can save others is burned because I have squandered my time here on earth. Now am I saying if you have a nice home or car or a lot of money in your bank account that you are plugging up what God wants to do…ABSOLUTELY NOT! My point, and what God has impressed on me is…
Are you using those resources He has blessed you with to bless others? For instance, you could host or lead a bible study in that spacious home. You could drive an elderly or disabled person in that nice car to church or the grocery store. Or you could use the monetary blessing to help the less fortunate or go on a missions trip to help those in need.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
When God sees that we can be trusted to share with others what He has done for us, then He will continue to increase the blessings so that we can bless others even more! It is a tangible way we can be a conduit for something that truly matters! But living the Christian life is incredibly difficult even when we are plugged into the power source and chasing after God. (Forgive the mixed metaphor but I could not help myself!) The Apostle Paul who was a Pharisee, extremely knowledgeable in religious law and fiercely adhered to all that was practiced reveled in being a persecutor of The Way (what the early believers in Christ were referred to). BUT GOD interceded and redeemed Paul from his self-righteous life and transformed him into one of the Pillars of the early church, authoring (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) more books of the New Testament than anyone else. The man who tried to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ, ended up being used by God to provide the framework for what the Christian life should be. Now oftentimes, people who “get saved,” who are trying to pursue a relationship with Jesus, believe that their past life is an anchor or impediment to what God can do through them but just the opposite is true! Your past is really a springboard to initiate your ministry opportunities. God is in the business of turning Past mistakes into Purpose!
In the case of Paul’s transformation, God used Paul’s zealousness and training in the law to be one of the most effective conduits for His love, grace and truth to flow to the entire world! Over 2,000 years later, people around the globe are still reading the words he penned through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! According to Wycliffe Global Alliance some form of Scripture has been translated in more than 3300 languages!
When we trust in God and make ourselves available, that is when we will see His purpose and plan activated so that we can operate in our fullest potential! I will close with this final thought from 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NLT) of the Apostle Paul:
“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.”
Let your life be a sweet perfume and allow these words to spur you on to be the most availability conduit ever!
In the last post, we closed with the question, are you weak like Samson? Maybe that was a harsh way to end the post but God has been really working on my heart for the past 6 months that as a Christ Follower I must desire to DO MORE and BE MORE than the status quo! We also read this great summation of Samson’s life in a sentence…
“Samson was an incredibly strong man, with a dangerously weak will.” Craig Groeschel
If you did not read it, I’d recommend you go back and check out Part 1 before reading on. Today I want to encourage you that there is a hope if you find yourself battling a weak will. Samson with all of his physical strength, never had the fortitude to say no to his selfishness or his anger or his lust and as a result he failed to truly live up to the calling on his life because he could not say no to temptation. James 1:14-15 (NLT) gives us a warning that Samson could have used:
Instead of enjoying true biblical community, Samson surrounded himself with the very people he was supposed to rescue Israel from, and thus allowed his sin to give birth to death. He went from strength to weakness not just because of the haircut, but I believe because he lost his identity and connection to God which opened himself to be attacked from the enemy who ultimately used Delilah and the Philistines to take out God’s mighty warrior. Remember Samson had an angelic announcement of his birth, a great assignment as a Nazarite and a noble purpose to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines. He traded all that for sex and his own selfish desires. He was completely UNSTABLE! I shared in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Harden Your Heart ★ these two powerful verses from Colossians 2:6-7 (HCSB) which contains the antidote to an unstable life…
The key to that verse for me is the word “ROOTED.” I read this definition…“to establish deeply and firmly.” A person who is ROOTED in God’s Word and totally surrendered to the Father’s Will, will be STABLE in all their ways. Now stable does not mean perfect and without sin, it simply means that we live our lives pursuing those things that matter and pressing on to be more and more like Jesus and not allow ourselves to be tossed around by culture and our flesh (or sinful desires). If we don’t, and we allow ourselves to go down that dark path it will lead to death. Now we all make mistakes and fall short of the mark but when you strive to engage in a relationship with Jesus and maintain a link to the creator of heaven and earth your life will be forever changed. It’s when we let ourselves drift that we will find ourselves in danger, like Samson. I think one of the saddest passages about this “Bible Hero” is found in Judges 16:20-21(NLT) after Delilah lulled Samson to sleep and a man shaved his hair (the source of his strength)…
Samson had become so dependent on himself that he became deluded in where his power came from that he didn’t even realize that the Lord had left him. What would you say about yourself? Be honest, would you say that you are walking according to God’s Word or by your own? Galatians 5:16 (ESV) gives this counsel to keep in step with the Spirit:
Samson was all about himself and prioritized satisfying his desires over his destiny. Let me ask you, where do you place your priorities? Are you passionate about pursuing your relationship with God? If so look back at the verses in Colossians we just read…As our roots grow in Christ, our faith will be strengthened and we will be equipped to help others. Even though you might not be able to travel throughout the world as a missionary, but you can change the lives of those you come in contact with. The way roots are stimulated to grow is by engaging in biblical community. That can be in different forms or environments, whether it be corporately on a Sunday morning, a Lifegroup (which is a setting of 12-15 people) or a small group of 3-4 people of the same-sex which my church calls a “Fight Club.” Regardless of what that looks like, the key immerse yourself in atmospheres that develop close friendships so that when the storms of life hit, (and they will,) there will be a group of people who are “waiting in the wings” to come alongside and help you. God never designed us to “go it alone.” You can’t just go to church once in a while or read a Bible verse once in a while or a read the latest Christian book to be considered a disciple of Jesus; we need to continually learn and engross ourselves with the things that matter most to God in order in our walk with Christ. I love what King David wrote in Psalm 119:35-37 (ESV) says:
A person who is ROOTED will study the Bible, they will seek to help not only those not related by blood, BUT will do anything to reach them and take care of their needs. They are not tossed about by their emotions and will strive to rise above the filth that our culture offers up. A ROOTED person is stable, loyal and can be counted on to be there in times of trouble, just the same as you would be for your parents, wife or children. We must fight for others because we have a great adversary and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT) we are warned:
“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.”
The call of Samson was to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines, the call for the ROOTED person is to go out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are a new creation with the assignment to reconcile or bring others to God because Satan, the enemy of our souls is looking to steal the Word whether you know it or not, we are supposed to be God’s representatives wherever go whether at home, the kid’s soccer field or on the checkout line at Kroger, we should be on mission looking out for an opportunity to call people back to the Father. How different would our world if every person lived with such purpose?! The key is to strive for progress, not perfection. You may have some bumps in the road as you reach out, don’t let Satan discourage you. We need to fight for others and be bold in expressing our faith. Craig Groeschel asked made these great points:
So how much do believe in Jesus? If the people who know you were asked if you were a Christ Follower, would they know the answer? You see the more you believe in Jesus and what He did for you and me on the cross, the bolder we should be about telling others about him. A person who is ROOTED and mission-minded is committed to be working on his boldness and being alert. You never know maybe God may be setting you up to change someone’s life. He certainly did for Samson, and I dare say for you and I. In order to avoid being weak like Samson, we need to understand that we are called to be Holy. 1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV) says:
When we read God’s Word, we are setting our minds on that which matters most and prepares us to face the battle from the enemy. Without it, its like going to battle with no weapon or armor. So the question remains…Where do you place your priorities? Are you passionate about pursuing your relationship with God? If it is a “no,” then I want to encourage you to repent and pray for God to break your heart for the sins that we all fall victim to and strive to engage God’s Word so that we can make a difference in this world. Matt Chandler made this great point on what it means to repent:
I love that definition, we must recognize that we are sinners and in need to change our ways! If the answer to the question is “yes,” that you want God to be a priority in your life and to be a ROOTED person then you need to put on “The Whole Armor of God” as Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) instructs:
Samson could have used this advice because he had no community to lean on for Godly counsel as he joined himself to Philistine women and prostitutes. He literally surrendered his “armor” by telling Delilah the source of his strength was his hair. The man with supernatural strength was not taken out not by a stronger foe but by his own libido!
Living life without our armor is like trying to stand up against the constant waves of the ocean, we must not think we can do life on our own strength. It is God, and God alone who gives us the ability to stand firm! That is what the Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us…success in God’s Kingdom is when we “walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith!”
Nothing changes if nothing changes. The question is…do you want to change?
So what did you think of the movie Samson that was released on last month ago today? Unfortunately, I did not get to see it in time before it left the theaters. It is so sad how fast a faith-based movie debuts and then is pulled from the big screen. Guess I will have to catch it on Redbox. I was really looking forward to it too because I have been doing a lot of study recently on the well-known Bible character. In our Lifegroup we covered the life of this Samson who very well could be considered a superhero which from the previews of the movie, the film makers sure played up the superhuman strength. In the book of Judges, Chapters 13 through 16 tells the story of what is known about Samson who has been featured in many a Sunday School Lesson and Children’s Book. But let me ask you, what do you know about this epic Old Testament Hero? For me, I thought I knew about Samson, but after studying these (4) short chapters I was shocked to see that there was much more to him. Sure everyone knows about the supernatural strength, the long hair, and the overactive libido that led to the haircut, capture and death, but what else do you know?
As I studied, I learned that Samson was called for a very special purpose…to deliver the nation of Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, an enemy that they continually battled. He was also a Judge over the Nation of Israel for (20) years. Now if you are wondering what that means, Judges 2:18 (NLT) defines the role:
“Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, He was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.”
In addition to that, as I read Judges 13:3-5 I found out that there was an angelic proclamation of Samson’s birth. That was a surprise to me. I did not recall that so I did some research and found that Samson was (1) of only (6) people to have an angel announce their birth. The others were:
Ishmael, whose parents were Hagar and Abraham – See Genesis 16:11
John the Baptist, whose parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth – See Luke 1:13-15
And of course Jesus, whose parents were Mary and Joseph – See Luke 1:30-33
In Samson’s case, the Angel proclaimed to Manoah and his wife that their son was destined to be a Nazarite. Now if you are not familiar with what that is…A Nazarite is defined in Numbers 6:1-21, in which a person vows for a certain length of time that they will:
Avoid contact with the dead.
Abstain from wine and strong drink.
Refrain from cutting their hair.
The difference in Samson’s case was that this vow would be for a lifetime. And so he made it onto another list. In the Bible there are only (3) people mentioned that took the Nazarite vow for life:
Fun fact, the only one of these men actually called a “Nazarite” was Samson. So why am I sharing all of this? Because NO ONE IN ALL of the Bible had SO MUCH STACKED IN HIS FAVOR and yet when you read WHAT Samson did and WHY he did it, all I can say is WHAT WASTED POTENTIAL!I asked the people in my Lifegroup to come up with some Life Lessons about the hero who is so widely taught about on Sunday mornings. Overwhelmingly, no one could come up with any positive actions that Samson did. So here are some thoughts I had of what I have learned of “what not to do” from the Life of Samson.
Lessons from the Life of Samson:
Don’t break your vows/promises to God. Samson continually gave into his emotions of selfishness, anger and lust. And ultimately broke all (3) of the Nazarite vows – he ate honey out of a dead lion’s carcass (see Judges 14:8-9), he threw a feast which customarily included alcohol (see Judges 14:10), and told the secret to his strength which lead to the history making haircut (see Judges 16:17-19). What Samson desired ultimately was more important than the destiny that God blessed him with!
Guard your eyes and heart from desiring what it is not good or safe for you.Samson chased after every detestable thing which had disastrous results. Samson allowed his selfishness, anger and lust to run amuck that caused an enormous amount of suffering for those closest to him, and led to his death.
Don’t include others in your sin. Samson involved his mother and father in his sin of eating the honey from the dead carcass of the lion he killed unbeknownst to them. If we call ourselves a child of God or a Christian or a Christ Follower, we must be very careful that we don’t cause others to sin as a result of example or in Samson’s case through deception. And that leads to life lesson #4…
Listen to your parents/Godly counsel. Samson could be the poster child for not being “unequally yoked.” (See2 Corinthians6:14-16).In Judges14:2 (ESV) we first see Samson’s inability to control himself…
“Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.””
And that refusal to submit to authority set the tone for how he would live his life! Samson wanted what he wanted and chased after it regardless of the consequences. His parents objected to the wedding but he forward with the planning anyway. And the sad part, in the end he did not even get the woman because of Samson’s anger over the betrayal of her giving away the answer to his riddle. See Judges 14:10-20 which leads us to our next life lesson…
Guard your anger. Samson allowed his rage to dominate his life and in the end, he lost everything. Instead of caring for God’s people and fighting for Israel, Samson time and time again allowed his anger to rule his emotions resulting in much pain.
As part of the engagement, Samson threw a week-long party leading up to the wedding. During the feasting, Samson lost a bet over a riddle and ended up killing (30) innocent Philistines to settle then wager. He went back home to mommy and daddy and so his finance was given away in marriage to Samson’s best man.
When Samson found this out, he tied up (300) foxes and set their tails on fire and burned up all the grain fields of the Philistines. But that overreaction resulted his ex-fiancé and her father being burned alive and eventually severe consequences on the Nation of Israel.
As you grow in the Lord, stay humble and watch out for the sin of pride creeping in. Samson completely lost sight of his purpose as he believed more in himself than in the God who gave him the great calling to be Israel’s deliver! Deuteronomy8:17-18(ESV) warns…
“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
He trusted on his own strength to solve all problems and thus took God for granted which is ironic because it was God who gave Samson the supernatural strength to do everything he did.
Keep an attitude of gratitude.In Judges 15:16-17Samson boasted and took credit initially for killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Then in Judges 15:18 (NLT) it says:
“Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, ‘You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?’”
His response was more like a spoiled brat than a great mighty man of valor.
If you play with fire you’re going to get burned! (See Proverbs 6:23-29). Samson consistently made the wrong choice when it came to the women he got involved with.
We already discussed the Philistine woman at Timnah and the consequences that ensued.
When Samson was with the prostitute in Judges 16:1, it says in verse 2 that the Gazites:
“surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city.”
Then of course there is Delilah. Which leads us to the last life lesson…
Lust is not Love.Samson attached himself to the wrong people. In Judges chapter 16 it talks about how Samson “feel in love” with Delilah and how she kept trying to determine the source of Samson’s strength because the Philistines promised to pay here 1,100 pieces of silver to betray him! Judges 16:18-19 (NLT) recalls…
“Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in their hands. Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him.”
Steven Furtick made this powerful point about how Samson traded his purpose for passionate encounters with the very enemy he was supposed to be delivering His people from…
I love that question…”Are you stable in your emotions?” Samson clearly wasn’t as he played with fire sleeping with the enemy, fully knowing that Delilah was going to betray him and yet he gave away the secret to his strength!
God can use your disobedience for good. Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on Judges 14:4…
And to add to Charles Stanley point, at the end of Samson’s life that, Judges 16:28-30 (ESV) tells us:
“Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.”
Now every Sunday School class heralds the epic death of Samson but look at the underlined words. Samson did not say strengthen men to strike a heavy blow on the enemy of your people, he said strengthen that “I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” But nonetheless God used Samson’s “disobedience for the good of His people!”
As I complied this list, and saw how Samson threw away a great legacy to indulge his carnal desires and unleash revenge; the one word to that came to mind to describe Samson was not the typical Sunday School adjective like cunning, unique or strong…But rather UNSTABLE! He was controlled by his flesh and as a result many people were hurt by his childish and selfish decisions. That was the muse for this Thought, the reality that Samson was not strong at all, but weak! Instead of walking with God, he followed his flesh! I will close with this great summation of Samson’s life in a sentence…
OUCH! That hurts but is also so true! I want to leave you with this question to ruminate over…”
Click Here for Part 2 that unpacks how to be a stable follower of Christ!
For further study, check out this blog post called:
Two years ago God placed on my heart to study the Christmas Story in greater detail than I have ever done before. It led me into a series of posts that lasted for 25 days, exploring the “Reasons” that we should be “Thankful” during the Christmas Advent Season; while at the same time, delving into the all-too-familiar stories that have become commonplace in order to gain a fresh perspective on the birth of Christ! It was an amazing endeavor, one which meant a lot to me in my personal walk with Jesus who truly is the Reason for the Season!
As part of the series, I posted this blog called ★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★ of how incredible Joseph, the fiancé of Mary and eventual stepfather of Jesus was to accept his small, but integral part of the birth of Christ. I was just reading this devotional called “Advent Adoration” by Jon Guerra who made this revealing statement about the life of Joseph:
“Mary is the one of whom the prophet testified. Jesus will save people from their sins. Those are gigantic destinies. But what about Joseph? Interestingly, there is nothing about his own life, his own impact. It’s as if his legacy is to be bound up in the life of these two: the virgin and her son.”
Have you ever thought about that? What about Joseph? How did he feel but all of this? Not many people give him much thought, including the Bible which has very little about this man who God deemed worthy to be the stepfather to His Son. Joseph has no place in the Gospel of Mark or John. In the Gospel of Luke he is only mentioned a couple of times. It is only in Matthew that we find any information about this incredible man (see Matthew 1:18-25 and Mathew 2:13-23), which is not a lot. In the Christmas Story, Joseph is the unsung hero that handles all the logistics of getting Mary to Bethlehem and finding lodging for her to have the baby. Then when their lives were in danger, Joseph led them to safety to Egypt while Herod was alive. And then he was responsible for bringing them out of Egypt to Nazareth. Nowhere in the story does he get any recognition and once they moved to Nazareth he is only mentioned one more time in Luke 2:41-52. That’s just crazy to me! As I was thinking about this humble carpenter a question came to mind…What if Joseph had said no?
None of this would have been possible if Joseph had hardened his heart. If you are not familiar with that phrase, it simply means to turn off your emotions and stop feeling kind or loving towards someone.
★ Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post. ★
I love “what if” stories and how they examine how different life would be if one thing was changed. What if…when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream he refused to be a part of the plan and closed his heart to what God wanted to do through him? I don’t think anyone would have blamed him if he had. I mean what would you do if the woman you were betrothed to showed up pregnant saying that an angel visited her and that she was carrying God’s Son who was the long-awaited Messiah? That is a lot to take in! Nothing could have prepared him for that news! As Joseph was faced with a very pregnant fiancé which he had not part of and all of his plans for the future were ruined, he could have yielded to doubt and speculation, but instead Joseph accepted God’s call on his life.
Maybe you are like Joseph and life has not gone the way you had expected whether that be the loss of a loved one, a physical illness or a betrayal from someone you trusted. Maybe there is not much happening right now to be joyful about and maybe the last thing you want to do is celebrate the birth of God’s Son because of how hopeless your situation is. I would like to encourage you today that you have a choice just like Joseph…you can allow circumstances to rob your joy or you can look up to a Heavenly Father who wants so much more for your life!
God has a gift for you but it is up to you whether or not you will receive it! In John 10:10 Jesus reveals what that gift is:
“The thief [the devil] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.”
If this Christmas season you find yourself alone and hopeless, feeling as if you do not belong, KNOW THIS…Jesus came to give us not only life, but Life in ABUNDANCE…the offer is open to all who will receive the free gift of salvation if you will trust Him today! The Salvation God provided through His Son is for everyone!
This Offer NEVER Ends!! Get your life on the right path for FREE when you accept Jesus Christ as your savior.
Fine Print: If you are ready to accept Jesus, here is a simple prayer to pray…
Lord I am a sinner. I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own. I need a savior. Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart. I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins. Take my life, I give it to you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!
If you prayed that in earnest, I have great news! You are now a son or daughter of God! And I would love to help you along in your decision, just contact me at email@example.com.
If you are already a Christian but yet you are struggling today, I want to encourage you from Hebrews 3:12-15 (NLT):
“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says: “Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.””
I read this scripture recently with my 5:00 am Fight Club, (no not with boxing gloves – it is similar to a Bible Study but we are fighting to grow spiritually in addition to reading the Bible…★ Click here if you want to know more ★). Well as we were discussing this, God reminded me of Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the Sistine Chapel ceiling called “The Creation of Adam” which portrays the scene from the Book of Genesis when God breathed life into Adam. What always gets me is the stark contrast of the lukewarm reach of Adam and the outstretched hand of God. It is a great illustration of how He is always actively reaching out to us, just waiting for us to turn to Him in our distress. Brandon Webb made this powerful point of how we are just like Adam and tend to have a half-hearted approach towards God:
“People are passionate or zealous about many things. We are passionate about work, striving to succeed. We are passionate about possessions, striving to have more. We are passionate about hobbies and interests. We are passionate about our sports teams. Think of this…We always have enough time, energy and money for those things about which we are passionate. The real question is: are we passionate about that which is most important? Are we passionate about God? ”
Where do you place your priorities? Are you passionate about pursuing your relationship with God? Once of my favorite verses on this is from Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT)…
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Did you know that the root zone of a tree can vary from 1 1/2 to 4 times the width of the tree canopy? So when you apply that concept to our walk with Christ, to be ROOTEDin Him and to BUILD our lives on Him will take time, energy and commitment to grow more and more like Him! When you think of Joseph in this context, it’s clear that he must have had tremendous zeal and passion for God to be chosen to raise His son. I close with this final thought about Jesus’ stepfather…
Can the same be said of you? If not, you can choose a different path if don’t harden you heart!Today If you hear the Holy Spirit calling you to action, do not harden your heart because you will miss the opportunity of what God wants to do in and through you! We celebrate Christmas today because a humble carpenter named Joseph didn’t!
For those who maybe have never read the Christmas Story in totality, here are the major stories:
The message called “Serving; The Key To Abundant Life” by Barry Parker in which he shares the importance of incorporating the (4) serving environments seen in Jesus’ life – personal devotion to the Father, serving the crowd, serving the Spiritual Family and serving the inner circle could be the secret to abundant life.
The message called “The Benefit of Doubt” by Steven Furtick which is one of the most amazing Christmas messages I have heard on the life of Joseph! Absolutely amazing!!
Today we close our Temptation Series on how to avoid the Consequences of Anger. It has been a great series that I hope you have enjoyed. If this is your first time, permit me to recap the previous (7) posts. We first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study about the danger of flirting with Temptation called:
When planning out the Temptation Series, I purposely saved anger for the last post because of the toxic nature of this particular pitfall. Every single person has felt the sting of this force whether as the receiver or as the one to fly off the handle. Anger manifests itself in different forms and in varying levels of severity. One of my favorite verses on anger comes from Proverbs 29:11 (NIV1984)
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
Now I say that it’s my favorite, but it is also quite convicting at the same time as I tend to give full vent to my anger or frustration when I feel I have been wronged or treated unfairly. But the key is in the first word…FOOLS!“Fools give full vent to their rage.” What do the WISE do?? They “bring calm!” (See also Ecclesiastes 7:9). My hope and prayer is that God would open your eyes to see the danger of yielding to this monster!
A few weeks ago I was visiting family in New Jersey and New York and it was interesting to see how much I have changed since moving to Texas 10 years ago. As I stood waiting on the curb at Newark International Airport, the amount of car horns repeatedly sounding off was evidence to the short fuse people have when they don’t get to where they want to go. After being picked up, I then saw the effect of being “cut off” by other cars on my sister’s disposition. Now she wasn’t experiencing road rage or anything near to the extent that we have been hearing on the news, but Anger definitely popped up! Hahaha! And though I thought I had overcome anger behind the wheel, I lost my temper as I was cut off in the pick-up line at my girl’s High School after I had landed that day. This example is insignificant enough, but the pitfall we are focusing on today is one that if not contained can cause irreparable damage! Anger is an all too common emotion that we all have felt, sometimes justifiably, but more times than not we unleash our hostility on those in our lives. King David had this advice in Psalm 37:8-9 (NLT):
“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper — it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.”
Oh how true this is. Growing up I saw how violent my father would get when he drank, and the hurt he inflicted on my mom. For years my Father allowed the alcohol to consume him and when he found himself at the bottom of the bottle, his rage was released on her. By the age of 5 my mom divorced him so she could escape from the abuse. If you find yourself in that circumstance I encourage you to find help, here is a great resource: Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence.
The Bible has a lot to say about anger. One of the most famous quotes about communication and conflict comes from James 1:19 which instructs:
This by far is the best advice anyone could heed. I know myself that more problems have resulted when I failed to follow this counsel. I have worked hard to change this tendency as I have been slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to get angry. I saw this great quote that summarizes James 1:19 beautifully:
“You have two ears and one mouth. Follow that ratio. Listen more, talk less.”
I love that so much!! How different would this world be if we did not allow our emotions to run wild? I have been going through a Bible Reading plan call “Holy Emotions – Biblical Responses to Every Challenge” by Carol McLeod. She made some very interesting observations that dovetail beautifully with what we are talking about.
“Your emotions travel 80,000 times faster than your thoughts travel. Isn’t that amazing? The tremendous speed of our emotional responses to life helps to explain why, even Christians, often tend to operate out of feelings rather than out of principle…If you continue to allow your emotions to rapidly yank you through life, you will always say things that are embarrassing, act in ways that are unbecoming, and never be the person that God intended for you to be. You will end up having the effect of a rapid-moving, volcanic eruption that decimates everyone in its violent, angry path.”
Wow! That was so true in my life both before accepting Jesus as my savior and regrettably after becoming a Christian as well. I have worked hard to break the cycle of violence that was passed down from my father who witnessed the same behavior from his father. Now I have never lifted a hand to my wife or kids but I certainly have been short with them and mean at times. In the devotional Carol McLeod mentioned Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) which warns:
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
I have read that passage many times but she made this point that helped me see it in a whole new light:
“Your heart does not want to be guarded. It desires to loudly express itself and all of its opinions. Your heart is passionate about ventilating, vomiting and vocalizing every little feeling it has ever experienced. The Bible never says that we are allowed to express everything that is in our heart – it simply says to guard it.”
Genesis 4:2-16 tells of the first man who failed miserably to guard his heart. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, brought an offering to God after a period of time; whereas his brother Abel brought the firstborn of his flock. God did not have any regard for Cain’s offering which resulted in him becoming was very angry. In verses 6-7 there is a truth that all of us need to learn today…
“The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’”
God warned Cain that “sin is crouching at the door,” which just like a lion ready to strike, our Anger is no different.
Unfortunately Cain did not resist the temptation and he ended up committing the first murder in history as a result of his bitterness and resentment towards his brother Abel. As a result, Cain was cursed and became a “fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” James 1:20 (NLT) instructs that:
“Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
So if we call ourselves Christ Followers and earnestly desire to serve God, we must get a hold on our anger issues to avoid the consequences which may be more than we can bear. I read this story a long time ago which has always stuck with me. It is a great analogy on destructive nature of anger.
“You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say. What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.”
But there is hope; we can start small in turning things around simply by following what Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) says:
I have seen firsthand the difference when I answer softer than I want to. This post has focused a lot on the heavy consequences of Anger and is a little more negative than usual but I think that is indicative of how dangerous it is to give into this destructive emotion. But of course there are many benefits when you resist the temptation. I love what Proverbs 13:3 (NLT) offers:
“Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”
When you control your tongue, you will reap the rewards of a long life! In the moment it may feel good to give full vent to your anger but I think we can all agree that
Amen? If you have grown up with Anger in your home or you are currently bringing it into the lives of those you love, you can break the cycle and the legacy that you leave. But it will take work. I encourage you to pray continually for God to intercede, study the bible for versus of anger (there are a ton), and study everything you can on the topic, the devotional by Carol McLeod would be a great start. I will close with one last quote:
“I can ‘act’ like Jesus without prayer. I can win an Academy Award for smiling sweetly and reciting kind platitudes while my heart is roaring and my mind is vengeful…Jesus does not desire for me to merely act like Him, but He longs for me to be like Him, and there is a decided difference.”
If we call ourselves Christians, then we must actually work to become more like Jesus and not merely pretend! As James 1:22 says:
To that end, Watermark Church in Dallas has a great Marriage Ministry class called re|engage which I shared (16) posts from what I learned a couple years ago, (Click here to read). They had a supplemental lesson on Anger which at the end they gave these questions for reflection. Regardless of whether you are married or not, these are applicable to everyone:
How is your anger affecting your marriage and relationships with others today?
What are some beliefs, expectations, or past experiences that might be contributing to your emotions and which lead up to anger?
Relating to the scripture from James 1:19-20, why does your anger not lead to the righteousness that God desires?
Action Item: Share with your spouse or a trusted friend your desire to yield your anger to God and ask them to pray for you as you begin this process.
I pray that if Anger has a hold on your life, that you will allow God to work on your heart to stop from yielding to this toxic temptation! Change can happen; it did for me and it can for you!
If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:
Today’s pitfall is one that I think hits home for just about everyone to some degree, as we all have leaned into some juicy morsel that was being told to us. Now before you try to get on your high horse and deny it, scripture backs this up. Proverbs 18:8 (NLT) reveals:
“Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.”
A rumor is defined as a “circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.” And even though the validity is questionable, we latch onto the secret and run with it as though it was gospel. Today I want to unpack how this seemingly insignificant temptation can cause chaos in our life and how it’s paramount that we guard our hearts and not allow ourselves to give in to the pitfall to gossip (See Proverbs 4:23-24).
It’s funny the things that you remember. Now if you have been tracking with our Temptation Series, I have correlated a bible character with the particular sin to avoid the consequence of, but as I started to plan for this Thought about the perils of gossiping, I immediately reminisced about a VeggieTales video I watched with my kids when they were young called “Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed.” Before you dismiss this parallel give me some grace to explain. I may be dating myself here but we had the VeggieTales video on VHS tape, (google that if you don’t know what that is). Though it was produced in 1999 and the special effects are not spectacular based on what is produced now, it’s still one of my favorites. This episode however gave my oldest daughter nightmares and to this day she says that is why she hates weeds! Hahaha! I hate them too! In fact, as a result of the mild winter, when spring came this year, weeds popped up all over my yard. And because it was so early in the season, the lawn care technician said we had to wait.
Well as we waited the weeds grew to be over a foot tall!! It was staggering to see how fast and tall the weeds got. And just like allowing the weeds to grow, when we allow gossiping to happen, it will spread to become an uncontrollable mess! In the VeggieTales episode, Larry-Boy is a cucumber action-hero who must thwart a plant spreading rumors in Bumblyburg. One of the things that I loved was the catchy song lyric from Larry-Boy’s archenemy:
That’s some good advice right there…“a tiny little story can make a big mess!” Though it cased my daughter to have nightmares, the way the Rumor Weed kept growing as the story spread to more and more people was really powerful because it showed how a little rumor that two kids started could produce a monstrous weed! And more importantly, it showed the consequences of yielding to the temptation as the city was under siege by a horticultural terror! I’m reminded of what Proverbs 18:20-21 (GNT) says:
“You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say. What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.”
Amen? Spreading rumors or gossiping is much more than just “dishing in the dirt,” words have the power of life and death (see Proverbs 18:21)! And when we allow gossip to proceed from of our mouths we open the door to all kinds of problems because Gossip snowballs. Just as the Veggie Monster grew larger as more and more gossip was spread, our participation and proliferation of rumors can cause devastation. I am sure you can remember a time in school or in the office when a story spun out of control and caused conflict. But Proverbs 26:20 (NLT) shows what will happen when we don’t join in…
“Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.”
You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t spread rumors,” butmaybe that’s because you don’t realize what gossip is. Rick Warren had this great insight:
“When we’re talking about a situation with somebody who is neither part of the problem or part of the solution, then were probably gossiping.”
I think we ALL are guilty of that!! There are so many scriptures in the book of Proverbs that warns about gossiping but Proverbs 17:9 (HCSB) gets to the heart of the matter:
“Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends.”
If we truly want to love on others than we will keep our mouths shut! Otherwise we are asking for conflict in our friendships!
At one point of the VeggieTales show, this statement was made:
“How do you kill a weed?” The answer… “You go to the root.”
I know I am quoting this cartoon a lot but there are some really good nuggets to mine from it. If we want to combat the rumor weeds in our lives, we need to get to the root! To that end, I wanted to share with you an amazing message called “Necessary Sins Series – Part 2: Gossip“ by Craig Groeschel, Life Church.TV. He suggested this practical approach to overcome the sin of gossip by asking these (3) questions…
“Not only is it wrong to speak the gossip, it’s also wrong to listen to the gossip. Why? What you permit, you promote…If you listen to it you are participating in it.” Craig Groeschel
I never really thought about that before, “What you permit, you promote.” Ouch! Something to think about, if you are listening to gossip about a friend or co-worker, what makes you think that when you are not around that person is not talking about you? And if that advice was not sufficient, I will close with what Jesus said in Matthew 12:33-35 (NLT):
“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”
If we call ourselves followers of Christ, then our mouths should align with the truth! Just like a tree is identified by its fruit, then we should be people who do not join in when the gossiping starts and more to the point we should not allow it to continue in our presence! Amen?
I know I am pushing my luck, but if you will permit one more quotation from the Larry-Boy episode, I wanted to finish with this simple advice that the father told his son at the end that:
And that is what I want to leave with you today! Let our words point to the God we serve!
Today’s Thought has been in the hopper for quite some time. I have mulled over and over for at least six months now. The title is an expression that my wife has periodically brought up in conversation with me for why we should do the things that we do. It’s all for the Kingdom of God. That’s a tough one isn’t it?? To live your life doing things for an “audience of one.” For those who are believers in Christ, you know the “Christianese” answer right? “Of course my reasons are only for the glory of God,” but if you’re being honest, I’m sure that from time to time, you too have looked for that “atta-boy” or “atta-girl” after you have gone out you way to help someone or do something. This is something that I have struggled with for most of my life both before becoming a Christian and after. Yeah I would believe that my motivations were pure but in reality I would look for the approval of others or recognition for the “good deed” that I had done. I think this photo captures my point…
We all want to have our efforts appreciated. When you look at this performer he sure is enjoying the accolades from the audience, but the real question is…could you still put forth tremendous effort to a theater like this?
That is the true test! Can we still labor for God and work our hearts out with no acknowledgement at all? Can you spend yourself even if no one ever knows what you did? That is what I want to unpack today!
Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post.
The Apostle Paul addressed this perfectly in this Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
That last part is particularly convicting to me. If we call ourselves a follower of Jesus Christ and live our lives trying to please others, you have to evaluate who is “LORD of your life”. YOU or GOD?!
At first I did not even realize this character flaw but God used my wife to challenge me why do I do what I do? “Am I trying to win the Approval of human beings or of God?” It wasn’t until I attended a men’s conference back in November 2014 that God opened my eyes that I needed to address this issue in my heart. During the conference one of the speaker’s invited the men to respond to what God was speaking into their hearts. I was one of these men on my knees repenting of how I sought after the praise of people over the glorification of God. Oftentimes it is hard to see the chinks in our armor and how self-absorbed we can be. I think Paul David Tripp nailed it when he said:
“Be aware that the kingdom of self is a costume kingdom. It does a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.”
Wow! Could it be that we are completely hoodwinked or deceived to believe that we are serving God while all the time really serving ourselves??
It’s not until recently that I realized why I had sought the approval of others so vehemently. God has been working mightily in my heart for the past couple weeks. In the last post called ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? – ¡Parte Dos! ★, I talked about my experience with the men of Zaragoza while on a missions trip to Mexico. As part of my testimony, I shared about how my father wanted nothing to do with me once my mom and I moved from Pennsylvania to New York. As I prepared for the Bible Study, God revealed to me that I not only had a father wound, but one from my grandfather as well. The move to the TriState area (NY) was not for a change of scenery but out of necessity because we were out of money; and so we moved into the house that my mom grew up in. We lived in the upstairs apartment from my grandfather but even though there was only a floor separating us, we might as well have lived on another planet. The journey to, and “life in the city” was overwhelming for this country boy. Though it was only a 2 hour and 15 minute drive, life was completely different. Instead of dirt roads, there were miles and miles of freeways. I went from riding my bike everywhere to taking a city bus or subway. And from being rejected by my father to my grandfather.
As a boy of 12 years old, I was excited to get to know my grandfather but unfortunately I found out pretty quick that he wanted nothing to do with me. So as I experienced a second arrow to my heart, a deep ceded need for a man’s approval was birthed. In his 2001 groundbreaking book “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” John Eldredge spoke about how every man has received a wound or wounds in their life from their father regardless of how good they might have been. He made this profound statement about how this injury is dealt with:
“Men either overcompensate for their wound and become driven, or they shrink back and go passive. Often it’s an odd mixture of both.”
I have realized that my drive and aggressiveness in life has been motivated unconsciously to prove that I am worthy of love and have “what it takes.” At the time I did not realize that the rejection of my father and grandfather had cultivated a deep need for the approval of those in my life, especially men because of the absence of any masculine influence. And a result, my motives behind why I would help others was more for commendation than genuine love of others.
Back in 2014 I dealt with the symptom of the issue but not the root. I did not fully know why I was so desperate for attention but now I am much more in tune with the cause; and have truly come to terms that I must be motivated by, and content with, the audience of the One!! I need to keep this on the sticky side of my brain!
I am going go old school and go to the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 10:31:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
As part of the Temptation Series, we have unpacked about avoiding the consequences of alcohol and gluttony which you may be thinking why am I using this verse now, well I’m glad you asked. Chapter 10 deals with idolatry, about the danger of worshiping things that do not please God (alcohol, gluttony and partying – See 1 Corinthians 10:6-11). We need to be aware that giving ourselves over to anything other than God is a slippery slope. The last part of verse 31 is what I want to focus on.
This is something that can radically change a person’s life if they will put in the work. It is really easy to focus on yourself, as Tripp said the kingdom of self does “a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.” So it’s not just enough to be helping others and serving God, we need to always be checking our motives!
In this self-promoting, indulgent world it is very easy to get derailed by all the “highlights” of people’s lives tweeted and shared online; and seek the approval from the world instead of our Heavenly Father. If we are not careful we can become imprisoned to the acceptance we receive on social media. I read this quote somewhere and thought it was perfect…
“A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
If we seek to be changed, God will answer. In Ezekiel 36:26, He spoke through the project and said,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Amen? Do you want that? I will close with these song lyrics from Francesca Battistelli’s song called “He Knows My Name” in which she proclaims…
I don’t need my name in lights I’m famous in my Father’s eyes Make no mistake He knows my name I’m not living for applause I’m already so adored It’s all His stage He knows my name oh, oh, He knows my name oh, oh
Check it out and let the lyrics wash over your soul!
The question remains…
Why do you do what you do??
Is it for God or for man’s approval?
Is it enough to be famous in your father’s eyes only?
I pray you will be!
If you want to dig deeper into understanding how loved you are, check out:
In the post ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? ★ , I shared about the resent Missions Trip to Zaragoza, Mexico I went on with my church to partner with a local church called Ranchos Dos Countries. Today I want to build upon that and tell you about an amazing God story that happened while I was there. Before I do that, I want to give a little context about the trip because I was not even supposed to go. Our church had a meeting several months earlier in which they talked about all the different opportunities available for the year. My daughter heard about the student trip to Mexico and wanted to go with the other teenagers. But at the time of signups there was not a lot of information and I was uncomfortable to send her out of the country for the first time. So we decided to go on the family Missions trip instead. Though it was not my plan to go, it was without a doubt the plan of God that I’d be there as I would find out just two days after getting there. But to get there I had to go through much spiritual warfare. I have been on a high pressure project and the timing of the trip could not have been worse in regards to executing the work but it was exactly what I needed!!
My part on the mission trip was to share my testimony of how God has changed my life with the men of Zaragoza. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know full well that I have made many mistakes and had a very dark life before accepting Jesus as my savior in 1998. So when I was asked to share my testimony, I accepted the responsibility without hesitation because I love to share how God used my wife to lead me out the life I was enslaved in. But unbeknownst to me, this time God wanted me to share an unabridged testimony. I have shared openly about the past problems with drugs, alcoholism, partying, depression, pornography and the night I almost committed suicide. This time however, God placed on my heart to share about the abuse that happened in my teenage years , which up until this point I had only shared with a handful of people. Though I believe I had been healed from the abuse, the stigma and shame kept me from being 100% open and transparent with others about this trauma. Now people who know me personally would not agree with that assessment probably, but for me I want my life to serve as a warning to others, and that cannot be fully realized if I hold back any part of the story that God has carried me through. And let me tell you, I am so thankful I did, because I believe that there was still some amount of healing that needed to be done which happened that week in Mexico!
Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post.
So…back to the God story I want to share with you. I was ready to air all the dirty laundry and leave the “baggage” back in Texas, those thoughts of condemnation and shame which have weighed me down, and go full throttle to minister to the men in Mexico. I was warned that because Zaragoza is a small community where everyone knows everyone, it will be a challenge to get the men to share. In addition to that, inside my head there was spiritual warfare right before I started to speak because of the age gap between most of the men and me, most being 20 years older than me, God showed up in a powerful way and cut right through all the blockades! As I sat in a small one room schoolhouse
with (16) leather-faced men who had been hardened by the sun and by life, God worked through me to reach these men. Strongholds were broken and breakthroughs were made that I have never seen before!! The truth of James 5:16 (ESV) was realized in a mighty way…
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
As I shared my story and confessed my sins and opened up about the abuse, God softened the hearts of these men. They saw that regardless of what has happened in the past, He can heal and deliver anyone from any bondage of sin, shame or guilt. Tears flowed in that small schoolhouse as man after man confessed sins and regrets of past mistakes. The greatest moment for me though was when the last man to speak shared that he was sexually abused too!! It was incredible to see the raw honesty and deliverance from the enemy that happened!!! And all I had to do was be a conduit for God’s love, grace and forgiveness to flow. Charles Stanley has this great life lesson on the verse from James we just read, he said…
“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith. We cannot obey God without being in regular, close fellowship with other believers. He has designed us so that many of our needs can only be met through mutual interdependence.”
Jesus Himself needed fellowship with others. Almost immediately He started His ministry, Jesus invited men to follow Him and become His disciples, see Luke Chapter 5. So if Jesus saw the value in surrounding Himself with others shouldn’t we?? This is something that in the past two years I have been doing and I have seen such tremendous growth and strengthening in my faith walk. And it is that sharpening that enabled me to finally break free to share what I did. I just finished a Bible reading plan called “Play The Man” from Mark Batterson and he made this powerful point:
“A man of conscience is a change agent—a force to be reckoned with. As Andrew Jackson observed, “One man with courage makes a majority.” He’s not blown here and there by trending winds. He’s anchored to the Word of God, and that anchor holds him through ups and downs, through thick and thin.”
When you’re a man (or woman) of conscience you can overcome sin and adversity in life but you must be dialed in to God! To be a change agent, a force to be reckoned with, you must study God’s Word because that is where true freedom will come! I will close with this truth from John 8:31-32 (NLT)…
“Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””
The truth will set you free!! What I experienced in Mexico with those men you can experience too IF you are willing to be a conduit for God to speak through. You don’t need to a seminary degree or to know the Bible cover to cover, it’s just about being willing to be transparent with your struggles and available to share the truth of God’s Word that will encourage and transform people’s lives!!
If you would like to read more on this topic check out:
Click hereif you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post.
Does the title of today’s Thought surprise you? One day in the office, a co-worker said to me, “I hate religion.” He was surprised by my response when I said “so do I.” Knowing that I am a Christian, he naturally assumed I was “Religious.” I told him that “Religion” is just “Man’s” way of understanding or attempting to connect with God. Unfortunately though people are hurt and oppressed by “Man-made” rules and then they blame God for what people say or do to them. Mark Twain once said:
That is so true! He gets blamed all the time for what people do in “His name,” but what God really desires is to have a personal relationship with us, through His Son Jesus, where we include Him in all aspects of our life. I truly believe that you can “Hate Religion” and…
I am excited to announce that today is our 200th post!!
It is also the 3 year anniversary since the Daily Dependence blog was born! And the first post that will also include an audio recording if you prefer to listen instead of reading, just click here to listen.
Today I want to ask you this question…
We all have one. It could be that you were adopted, or grew up in a single parent home, or maybe you had both parents under one roof. Perhaps your family was rich or poor or somewhere in the middle. You may have grown up believing in God, or never have darkened a church door in your life, or you could have come to faith later in life. Whatever your family of origin, socioeconomic circumstances and religious background may be, we all have a story which has helped shape and define the way we behave and interact with others.
For me, I grew up in a one stoplight town in Pennsylvania with my mom, brother and sister. As a divorced woman with 3 kids to support, my mom worked herself to the bone as a maid in a local resort destination but unfortunately God really did not have any real part in our lives. I have been thinking a lot about my story lately since my oldest daughter and I got back from a trip to Zaragoza, Mexico. If you are thinking “I have never heard of a vacation destination with that name,” well that’s because no one would ever pick there to spend a week unless they had family there or as a result of their car breaking down while driving through to somewhere else. Zaragoza is a dirt poor town near the Mexico–US border with Texas, 1 hour southwest of the Del Rio border crossing. With a population of approximately 12,000, Zaragoza is far from any resort area; in fact, it is 1,000 miles to the north of Acapulco, Mexico.
The reason we were there was to share the love of Jesus through acts of service…from passing out food in the neighboring homes, to putting on Vacation Bible School for the children, to facilitating men’s and women’s bible studies. The video below was produced by a friend of mine on the trip that captures the incredible week of ministry that our church experienced as we partnered with the local church called “Rancho Dos Countries” (www.ranchodoscountries.com) in Zaragoza, Mexico.
It was my first mission trip and was absolutely amazing! I shared the video with a buddy of mine and he had this to say…
“Looks like you helped bring a bunch of joy to some folks man!”
My response to him and what I want to share with you today is that it was just the opposite! I have spent over a year going out of my mind as a result of a project I am on and all the stress it has caused, but one week in Mexico has change my attitude and outlook on life! While he was correct that I did help some people, they helped me far more! I learned three major things while in Mexico:
I’ve always been a person who would pitch-in with whatever is needed. On the missions trip I learned very quickly that you will do a variety of jobs and there is absolutely no room for ego. From the Team Leaders to the Pastor to the youngest child on the trip, everybody was expected to shoulder their fair share and do whatever was asked of them without complaint and with joy. And that is exactly what happened! It was truly incredible to see Psalm 133:1 (NIV) in action!!
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We left from Mansfield, Texas as acquaintances but have come back as a family!
The second thing I learned was:
Many times I have acknowledged that God has blessed me with a beautiful family, a wonderful house, and a great job but until this trip I never truly understood how much I really am! The abject poverty that I saw on this trip was heart wrenching and quite honestly difficult for me to believe that in the 21st-century there still exists!
The people of Zaragoza have so little and yet when you talk with them, there is a deep joy and appreciation of what God has done in their lives. It was inspiring and convicting at the same time.
The final lesson I learned was:
I realized that the things that I worry about are so meaningless. Yes I may have a bad day at work or having issues on a tough project, but there are people not only in Mexico but all over the world who spend their days just fighting to survive. While there to encourage the people, I found myself being far more encouraged by them. I met a man there named Francisco. I first saw him riding up a hill towards me on the makeshift bicycle you see on bottom right of the photo. When he reached me and of the other guys from our team, we were greeted with the biggest smile. You may not have noticed it at first but there is a crank shaft that goes from the handle bars to the front wheels and that is because Francisco has no legs. He is known all around the town I would suspect because of the bicycle and his physical limitations but after talking with him for a half hour or so through a translator I believe it’s because of his joyful attitude and fun loving spirit. He also does an incredible job of shining shoes which is how he supports his wife and two daughters. We were blessed to hear his testimony of how 20 years ago he tried to jump on a moving train and lost his grip resulting in the dual amputation. If that were not traumatic enough, Francisco was also dragged by the train for a while before he got free. When he was found, Francisco was assumed dead and sent to the morgue. For 12 hours he laid there until the medical examiner discovered he was alive!! As I listened to this miraculous story, it is undeniable that the hand of God was on him that night and has been for the past 2 decades because there has never been a day in my life that I have ever gone to work with an ounce of his joy!! He truly embodies what the Apostle Paul commanded in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV):
I have quoted this scripture many times believing in my heart that I was fulfilling the charge, only to see from the life of a humble shoeshine man that I have far to go. Because of Francisco my perspective has been forever changed. Boy I tell you nothing helps you more to forget about your problems like going on a mission trip to serve and help others because you never know how God will not work through you BUT to you!!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
God comforts us so that we will turn around and comfort those in need. That is why Missions Trips are so wonderful, because you get to partner with God, to be His hands and feet in the fulfillment of the Great Commission that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV):
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”
Everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through hardships and adversity, some much more than others. The key though is what to you do with it?? My wife put it perfectly when we were talking about this Thought,
I love that! We all have story. How can you use your story to glorify God? Like Francisco, as we share our story of what God has carried us through, we can encourage and inspire others in His masterplan! I leave you with the same command to Go Make Disciples of all Nations, not just in another country but in your neighborhood, school or workplace! There are needs everywhere and I pray that you will move you into action!
Happy Father’s Day! Today’s post is not just for men, but for everyone who has a man in their life, whether it be their father, husband, son, uncle, nephew or friend. The third Sunday of June has a different impact on you depending on what your relationship is with the man you call Father, Dad or Daddy. I shared about my Father in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Never Fatherless ★, about my parents divorcing when I was 5 years old and how my relationship with my father was nonexistent from the age 12 until we reconnected at the 36. There was hole in my heart for many years that drove me to need approval from others. The muse for this Thought came shortly after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro had finished and I saw this interview that Michael Phelps did for ESPN called “The Evolution of Michael Phelps” that blew me away!
Okay if you did not play the video, STOP READING AND WATCH THE INTERVIEW, it’s worth it and it is the backbone for this post. I have always been a fan of Michael Phelps even after the infamous “bong photo” hit the front page of the newspaper six months after the Beijing Olympics in 2014. Retirement it seems, gave the Olympian way too much time on his hands. As I watched the video, I was reminded of what Proverbs 16:27a (TLB) warns:
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
Boredom opened the door for the enemy to attack and much like we have been talking about in our Temptation Series, Michael yielded to many self-destructive behaviors. When the photo of Phelps using marijuana was released, it was incredible how the world turned on him. Parodies and jokes were everywhere and of course shock that he blew it. It’s interesting that the world we live in is always looking to find someone to idolize but it seems that they love it even better when someone crash and burns! The media news outlets love the “fall from grace” stories – “If it bleeds, it leads” unfortunately.
In addition to addressing the photo, the interview gave insight into the swimmer’s life about his complicated relationship with his father, Fred, his second DUI arrest in 2014 and the time that he spent in a Behavioral Rehab Facility in which he contemplated suicide after the second DUI arrest in 10 years! As I watched the brokenness of Michael Phelps over the void that his father’s absence created, I could not help but compare how not having my father in my life not only influenced, but shaped my life to continually strive for the approval of others.
Though to the rest of the world saw Michael Phelps as an unstoppable machine in the water and a picture of perfection and excellence, Michael was silently dying inside and had reached the point of no return in September of 2014. It is hard to believe that the man who “is the greatest Olympian of all time,” winning (23) medals, (19) – being gold winning at the point in 2014 would make this statement:
“I was a train wreck; I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth. There were times where I didn’t want to be here. It was not good, I felt lost.”
BUT that is how the enemy works! You can have the adulation of the world, be on the top of your profession or head of the class and still end up feeling worthless and alone. That was my story too, though I was far from an Olympian, I had success in my life and still felt empty inside as well. If the most decorated Olympian in history could feel this way at the age of 31, how many other people are struggling with the same insecurities, the same father wounds and the same addictions that threaten to take them out? My prayer is that God would use me to take back territory that the enemy has stolen and to be a friend like Ray Lewis was to Michael Phelps to help lead people out of the darkness. The video revealed how Michael’s friend and former linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens, came alongside of him. Ray gave him the book called “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?” by Rick Warren which helped Phelps to come out of the darkness his was in. I love what Rick Warren said in the book:
“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Boy if we could grasp this, how different would this world be? Like me, Michael Phelps parents divorced when he was young (age 9) and he too had his own “father wound” that scarred and imprisoned the Olympian to also strive to be better than everyone else to achieve the acceptance from his father that alluded him. BUT that does not have to be how the story ends! You may be reading this today with a similar story of not having the greatest earthly father, but I want you to know there is a Heavenly Father who can be all that you never had and more. God is in the business of changing lives and rewriting even the most tragic story. We all love a comeback story and that is what can happen to you if you just trust that God is a good, good Father!It doesn’t matter what you did, how badly you sinned, it only matters what you do next! Will you continue in the downward spiral or will you turn things around and repent. That is what God did for me and for Michael Phelps. As a result of Michael embracing “a higher power” as he referred to God in the interview, and working through his broken relationship with his father, Phelps came back and won another (4) gold medals and (1) silver in Brazil just 2 years after his life hit rock bottom!
Shortly after the 2016 Rio Olympic, I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – Let Your Light Shine ★ in which I shared about a wonderful moment that I had with my mom when went to Washington DC in 1996 and she to was able to touch the Olympic Torch as the relay went through the Nation’s Capitol on the way to the Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The Historic Relay with the Torch has been a huge part of opening ceremonies and for the past 10 months I have been mulling over this Thought for the Day about what exactly does it mean to “Be the MAN to Carry the Light?” I saw this image
and the powerful symbolism that the Torch is for the Olympic games and realized that it also has a spiritual connection to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)…
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
We are to Be The Light! To let it shine as we carry it wherever we go, sharing it with everyone we come into contact with. As a husband and father I realize the immense responsibility that I have as to constantly be checking where I am at in my personal walk with God in order to be an effective leader in my home. As a man, this is a God-given role that we must take very serious. I read this from Charles Stanley that I thought was really good…
“Sometimes we mistakenly think that Grace excuses us from the hard work of growing spiritually. It doesn’t. The Bible says that “because of practice” we have our “senses trained to discern good and evil” (see Hebrews 5:14). That means we grow by allowing the Holy Spirit to direct us, by obeying God, and by making godly decisions.”
Grace is at the heart of the Christian faith. God is always one prayer away, ready to forgive and restore us just as He did for Michael Phelps, BUT we still have to put in Olympian-like effort to stay the course and live out our lives to make impact on the world. We all what to make a difference in this life to be remembered by those in our life, I know I do. My heart’s desire is to be a world changer, first to my wife and daughters and then to anyone God would send my way in order to break through the darkness and the hold that the enemy had on this world! John 1:5 (ESV) says::
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
My constant prayer is that God would help me to overcome the attacks of the enemy in both my life and in the lives of others! That I would be of value for the building of His kingdom here on earth! John 8:12 (NLT) says:
“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’”
Jesus gave us the model to emulate. I want to be more like Jesus in every way! Something that I often pray is for Him to direct me, to mold me and use me for HIS glory! To be the man to carry the light for the building of His kingdom! I will close with this thought from John Eldredge that he wrote in the pocket booklet called “You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know”:
“You, Dad, are the most powerful man in the world…At least in their world…Never forget that no one is as powerful as you are in the lives of your sons and daughters.
Mother is love and tenderness and mercy. She is a picture of the heart of God.
But identity – especially gender identity – is bestowed by the father. A boy learns if he is a man, if he has what it takes, from his dad. A girl learns if she is worth pursuing, if she is lovely, from her dad. That’s just the way God set this whole thing up. This power He has given to you.”
On this Father’s Day, I want to leave you with this challenge to impart to your son that he has what it takes, and/or if you have a daughter make sure she know that she is lovely and worthy to be pursued! Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV) instructs:
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
That is what a man who is worthy to carry the light does!
Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the Consequences of Compromise. If you have missed the previous posts we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (click here). We then studied about alcohol and drugs (click here), pornography and promiscuity (click here), adultery (click here), and most recently gluttony (click here).
Last Sunday the pastor at my church said that Satan wants us to bail out or compromise which got me thinking about this Thought for the Day because you can see this happening constantly in our culture. Today we will delve into the pitfall of compromise. If you have been following our blog, you know that this is a topic that we have explored quite a bit in the past; and that is because if this area is out of line, then every other part of your life will be affected. If we say we are a Christian then we must be very careful not to allow things “to slip” in this department. Now I am not living in a fantasy-land, I would love to say that all temptations goes away once you accept Christ as your savior but that would be denying what 1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV) warns.
Temptation is real and will never go away while we are on this side of heaven. And compromise is a slow fade…What we say, the jokes we laugh at, how act should align with the faith we profess. I truly feel that how we handle ourselves should be the same regardless of who we are with. What do you think about that? Is that possible? I can honestly say that I try to be the same person whether it is with my daughters, my wife, a co-worker, my pastor or a stranger. Something that I have always tried to keep in mind is what I once heard motivational speaker, author and former pastor John Maxwell say:
What a humble statement and great wisdom too! No matter how far along you are in your journey, you are always one bad decision away from blowing it! In an instant we could ruin our legacy and reputation that we have built over a lifetime of good choices. Peer pressure from friends, or demands from employers/clients, or one’s own ambition to climb the corporate ladder can exert a huge gravitational pull towards compromising our moral or ethical beliefs. That is why we must heed the warning of 1 Corinthians and be mindful not to give into the enticements that satan dangles in front of us, whether it be cheating on an exam or our spouse, turning a blind eye to corruption or willingly partaking in it. This may be cliché but you will never regret doing the right thing and not going along with what people are doing. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT) instructs…
“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.””
When we allow ourselves to be influenced by how we will be perceived or to make choices that we know are not God honoring, we open ourselves to some devastating consequences.
Today’s case study fell victim to the trap of yielding to the court of public opinion. Saul was the first king of the Israelites and was anointed by the prophet Samuel to lead. On the outside, he appeared to be quite “kingly,” but on the inside he desired only to garner the people’s approval and would do anything for that affirmation. For those not familiar with King Saul here’s the cliff notes version about this man.
We are first introduced to the man in 1 Samuel 9:1-2:
“There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.”
So Saul came from a wealthy family and looked the part as well. In verse 17, he received a great endorsement from the prophet Samuel…
“When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said, ‘That’s the man I told you about! He will rule my people.’”
So he came from the right family, he looked the part and had the right supports. Saul had everyone hoodwinked including the prophet of God. It’s interesting though, when it came time to appoint Saul as King of Israel, he was nowhere to be found. 1 Samuel 10:21b-24 says:
“And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”
And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else.
Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!”
And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
“Long live the king!?” The people cheered to receive a king that was “hiding among the baggage” at the time of appointment! From the onset, Saul proved he did not have what it takes; you can read all about his reign in 1 Samuel 11-13. As war continued with the Philistines, and hopelessness was spreading amongst the ranks, Saul’s true colors came out as he waited for Samuel. 1 Samuel 13:8-14 (NLT) recalls:
“Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.
Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”
Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”
“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
As a result of not trusting in God and his desire to keep his men in line, Saul violated God’s command that only his prophet could present the offering so he lost the kingdom as a result of giving into compromise! The same can happen to us in our jobs, our marriages or our friendships if we too follow in the way of Saul. I got this fortune cookie once that I thought was priceless…
We need to practice discernment and realize that it is our choice as to what we give into. Now I don’t subscribe to fortune cookie wisdom, so let’s see what the Bible says…
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13