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Friday, May 29, 2015

Generosity

2 Corinthians 8:1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Generosity must be a response to God's grace. It is not based on our life circumstances. Generosity should always take place because EVERYTHING is of the Lord God. We must recognize what we have is due to us being blessed as the trustees of what God offers. Generosity is actually a matter of the heart. Softened hearts find it easier to give. Let's put it this way, a softened heart finds it easier to submit to God. When we give ourselves to God, it will cause us to give ourselves to others.

Generosity is the catalyst for our relationship with Christ Jesus.

Prayer: Father, forgive me if there is any hardness in my heart. You have shown the ultimate grace and generosity. Teach me your generosity. Teach me to understand your grace so my heart will be softened, in the name of Jesus. Thank you Lord God.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Don't make decisions based on what you want today.

Don't make decisions based on what you want today. Poor planning leads to poor decisions. Make decisions based on what you want tomorrow. Daily you're sowing seeds towards tomorrow. An effective leader is always future focused.  Be a leader at home, work, in your family, and MOST IMPORTANTLY YOUR LIFE.  Think, how can you better suit your family by being a better leader. What sowing can you do? Is it praying, more serving, adding in more family time, turning off electronics for a few hours, being more involved at home, or in your kid's life, living /eating better, or simply learning to love people who trespassed against you. If you are not properly sowing for your family and your life, who is?

Monday, May 25, 2015

God is in Control!

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19

I just love this scripture. It reminds me when life is upside down, not looking promising, or just plain ugly ... GOD IS IN CONTROL.  Be encouraged, because God's got it. What is the burden you are holding today? Know, God's got it and let that thing go.

You Have Potential!

1778, George Washington, introduces a recruit named Baron von Steuben, a Prussian-born American military officer to aid in the battle against the British. Von Steuben, served as inspector general and Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. It is said that President Washington had a gift for enlisting people who did not seem as though they could achieve great things. Prior to joining President Washington, Von Steuben was a lifelong soldier that found himself, imprisoned, unemployed, and discharged from his army. In the US, Von Steuben was a foreign mercenary with a damaged reputation, yet, when put in position, his military core rose to the occasion. He brought discipline to ragtag recruits, order, hygiene, living adjustments and a manual on military training with methods used today. Using 100 men, he turned them into an elite force, each training 100 more. He brought a new attitude. This helped change the course of the war that formed our nation. What does this have to do with God and Christianity? Excuse my comparison, but just as Washington was able to see the potential in von Steuben, God see our potential. God knows our potential. God gave us potential. Amen! Despite your past, future, present situation. Despite your sex, race, or background. The question is, will we decide to deprive the world or bless the world with those gifts that are locked away inside. God wants us to use or reach our potential through him. 

1st Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.”  The scripture refers to spiritual gifts, which appear to mean exact understanding, and uttering the doctrines of the Christian religion; the knowledge of mysteries, and skill to give advice and counsel. Also the gift of healing the sick, the working of miracles, and to explain Scripture by a peculiar gift of the Spirit, and ability to speak and interpret languages.

Just like von Steuben, there is great wealth of potential within us. We can change the entire landscape of this world. Consider asking yourself in what ways are you working toward your potential using your strengths and abilities? Think of a time when you believed you were reaching your potential and what was God doing in that moment?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Life Doesn’t Have the Last Word (When You're Walking in the Spirit)

A man, blind from birth, learns of an operation that will give him the gift of sight. Encouraged by his friends and family, he undergoes the procedure. The operation is a success and for the first time in his life he can see. However, he finds himself disoriented and confused. He recognizes nothing and is unable to process light and distance. Everything appears alien to him so he begins to walk with his eyes shut. Darkness is the world he knows and can navigate. After some time, he begins to act in every way like the blind man he used to be. Although his eyes are perfectly normal, he never uses them.

This is how it is for those of us who are born of the spirit but who have not learned how to walk after the spirit. When we were in flesh we walked after the flesh. Spiritually dead, the natural world was the only world we knew and we relied on our five senses to live. But when we were born again we were given a new life with new senses. Like the blind man in the story, we can now live in two worlds: the natural world and the spiritual world; the seen realm and the unseen realm (Heb 11:3).

We use our natural senses to navigate the natural world but in the spiritual world we walk by faith. It is only by faith that we can make sense of things we do not see (Heb 11:1). The trouble is faith often runs contrary to our natural senses. This is why the Bible challenges us to live by faith rather than by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Lean on your own carnal understanding and you will never live the abundant life that God has promised. It is only by faith that you can receive what He offers.

In the last few posts we have looked at what it means to walk according to the flesh. (If you missed them, a list of posts is found below.)  To walk after the flesh is to be mindful of natural things – what we see, hear, touch, etc. But to walk after the spirit means we are mindful of spiritual things – what God has said and is now saying, what God has done is now doing. I’m not talking about being born again. Your new birth was a one-time work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5). But once you have been born of the Spirit, you need to learn how to walk in the spirit. It’s a completely different way to live.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Ga 5:25, NKJV)

by Rev. Dr. Paul Ellis

Monday, May 18, 2015

Through Tough Times

Just because we are going through tough times in life does not mean God has forgotten or forsaken you. Be encouraged, your situation doesn't have the last word. God is good, loving, faithful and merciful. There are no secrets to this. The devil wants our lives. He will try to snatch your hopes and dreams. If he cannot get ours guess who's next? Our children! No children, no problem! Who's the next closest loved one? He will drive a stake between us and our spouse, our parents, friends, and relatives and get two for the price of one.  He seeks to destroy us - spiritually. He could care less we go to church, because he can still get to us -mentally. The devil is relentless to destroy us emotionally. We cannot let every situation, or struggle sway us. I am not saying be emotionless, but I am saying do not let EVERY situation cause us to project an image contrary to God. When the devil gets us to destroy our testimony, he wins a battle he was marked down to lose. WE have to learn to put our STOP sign up and use our authority (Luke 10:19) to derail the devil's plans.  Otherwise we stand to lose more than just our situational battle. 

No matter how things look, know God is still in control.  If you believe in God, you must believe everything about his nature. Instead of questioning Him, Psalm 107:1 says, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever."  There are no special selections either. Psalm 145:9, tells us, "The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made."  

There are no grey areas. Stay in spiritual peace, knowing God will always be with you lovingly and compassionately.

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him

When we look at the book of Job, we learn of how to deal with the issue of not understanding why God allows certain things to occur. Satan was allowed to do almost everything he wanted to Job, except take his life. As hard as it may be, we must learn from Job's reaction. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).  Just like we have no idea of why we cannot seem to get out of the ruts we find ourselves in or the situations we see with innocent lives being taken, Job also did not understand why God allowed the things He did.  However, Job knew whatever it was God was up to, he would continue to trust in Him. Ultimately, that should be our reaction as well. As I see our son struggling with his speech, I am learning to let figuring everything out go and let God do His thing. It is so difficult, and I feel as though I am always evaluating him, like a patient.  I feel as though the ability to look at our son 'normally' has been taken away.  I believe it was T.L. Osborn in his book Healing The Sick, that said believing God is when the current situation is contrary to what God says and you put your trust in the report of the Lord.  If we truly believe God is God, we must know God is good, just, loving, and merciful. Often things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. However, instead of doubting God's goodness, my reaction should be to trust Him. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6)." 

If you are going through something,  I wish someone could tell us the purpose,  but none of us know why children are born with defects, families are in cycles poverty, innocent bystanders are killed, etc. and the truth is we will never be able to fully understand. However, it is wrong for us to question why God allows something to occur. Why? So for us all, just like Job, even when the evidence seems to indicate the opposite, if you TRULY believe in God, you must believe everything about His nature. This is true for me also. There is a reason Jesus is still alive. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leave the Polishing for God

Matthew in Greek is Maththios, which means 'gift of god'. Categorizing the 12 disciples, he would be the lowest of the low.  Why? He was a tax collector. Even fishermen were more valued than tax collectors. Matthew was said to have had a post near or in the fishing village, where he collected taxes from those exporting and importing fish through Capernaum. He was considered a dishonest man because many tax collectors had affiliations to Romans officials. It is believed Levi (Mark 2:14) had his name changed by Jesus to Matthew.

Mark 2:14 says, "And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him." I recall struggling to answer the call in my life, but my man Matthew did it cold turkey. If anyone ever wondered how powerful is efficacious grace, well it is so powerful it will turn the heart of a sinner immediately. It will cause you to leave everything without force, but willingly and cheerfully. Matthew became Jesus' record keeper and best of all, God used every skill Matthew perfected to now serve Him by recording the greatest event in Christiandom. He was living out his name, the "gift of God".  God comes to change our heart, permanently. 

Jesus doesn't really care what others think about a person, or how others value a person. He would not withdraw his love even from the lowly, which makes the grace of Christ the more illustrious and distinguishing. He loves the outcasts and the unloved. Stop concentrating on polishing yourself up for God.  We are already deemed righteous despite our flaws. So leave the polishing for God.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

God the Rock II

26My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak but God remains the strength of my heart; he is my portion forever.
~Psalms 73:26

In our life we are sure to face trials either due to indwelling sin, temptations, desertion, or by the deterioration of the body.  When overwhelmed with distress through outward trouble, when you don't feel spiritually fit, your amount of grace seems weak, corruptions of the Spirit are coming on strong, temptations prevail, and afflictions are many.

The later part of the verse uses the word portion. Which is a late Hebrew-Aramaic derivative verb cheleq (khay'lek) which means inheritance, legacy, portion, or territory. As a parent I strive to leave my children a legacy whether my name, finances, or property. Someone would leave an inheritance to support their grandchildren to provide some sort of stability, the psalmist here is saying REGARDLESS of what life may encounter physically or spiritually, my Lord will support and sustain me, and strengthen me with strength in my soul.

Be blessed today to know though by sin we are all far from God, we can still draw near, and keep near, to our God, by faith and prayer, and find it good to do so. Those with an upright heart will put their trust in God.

Your commitment to God = Inheriting His Legacy

God the Rock

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ~Psalms 73:26

The GOD'S WORD® Translation reads,
My body and mind may waste away, but God remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever.

The Psalmist is of full belief God would never let us waste away without being sufficient enough to provide grace.  The Psalmist believes regardless of what happens to his temporal body God will provide an inheritance for the rest of his life.  We can conclude, the inheritance that he longs for must be greater than anything this temporal life can offer.  Would you leave a $50k job for a $30k inheritance from a great uncle? No. You would keep the job and keep the money.  Secondly, it can also be assumed that the Psalmist has full trust in God that he would make God his firm foundation. So much so that he clings more to God as his life fails.

I believe Heaven itself could not make us happy without the presence and love of our God. The world and all of its temporary glory will vanish and the body will eventually fail due to sickness, age, and, or death. But Glory to God, Jesus, our Lord, offers to be all in all to every sinner, who renounces the world and draws to Him.  Remember, God is the strength of your heart, or "the rock of your heart. " When the waves of life are dragging you down, cling to The Rock.

... To be continued

Monday, May 11, 2015

Morning Time

Our daughter has the funniest way of seeing things.  Now that it is still light out near her bed time she always tells us it is still "good morning time".  For the longest at least I thought she was a little off with understanding night and day,  but as I continue to process it,  what she is really saying is, as long as there is still light outside I want to stay up because there is still so much more to do.

I find this relating to our walk with Christ.  The New Living Translation (NLT) reads, 35 Jesus replied, "My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. 36 "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light." These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.

The word light is the same as Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world, and   Luke 11:35, watch out that the light in you is not darkness.
So in context Jesus wanted his disciples to utilize him for whatever they needed...  confidence, strength, etc. Jesus needed them to be comfortable and stout in their belief in Him. Darkness,  the nonbelievers, would soon come to persecute and destroy what Jesus started to build.  If the disciples we not steadfast in their knowledge of the Son, they would easily be shaken by their opposition and their light would die out.  
Just as Sofia is doing her best to do everything while she has light, so should we.  As long as we have The Light reigning in us, we shall take the opportunity to carry out his will.

Those who would walk in the light must believe in it, and follow Christ's directions, otherwise those who do not have faith, cannot behold what is set by Jesus. Don't be the person that finds a thousand objections to excuse their unbelief.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why Your Spiritual Maturity Matters

I remember having breakfast with a few Deacons at my church and the topic of 'should you or shouldn't you' came up. The context of the conversation was, just because you can doesn't mean you should. Can you watch scary movies? But should you? Can you watch some of the prime time TV shows? But should you, knowing some feed into a lustful spirit, or secular perversion? This is where spiritual maturation comes into play. It boils down to what are you feeding your soul. Or I guess another way to put it is what are you making your altar as my Youth Pastor would say. 1 Peter 2:2-3, says like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvationAs newborn babies. These words look back to 1 Peter 1:3, 23. through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope. As babies long for milk from their mother, their proper food at that age, we too must long for God spiritually.  The words 'of the word' is greek for logikon or logikós (log-ik-os'), which is means reasonable, rational. You can see the word is similar to logic, or logical as well. This is derived from the greek word lógos (log'-os)Lógos means a word, or divine utterance, which tells us there must be a reference to the Word of God. 

What does this all mean in regards to focusing on our spiritual relationship with God? It means if we are not properly feeding ourselves with the word of God, WE will be responsible for leading OURSELVES astray. Like a baby, when we are trying to give RJ what he needs to feel better, he fights it - vigorously. Likewise, spiritually, when someone tries to offer counsel, we reject it, adamant it would not work for us, or simply don't receive it. Ironically, we tend to find ourselves in the same spot down the road. Don't be that person. Life is just a vapor, a mist. Don't waste your life away because instead of getting spiritually developed you decided to get carnally plump.

Don't be Peter Pan

Do you recall the movie Peter Pan, an adaptation of Sir James M. Barrie's 1904 play about a boy who never grew up and an ongoing war between Peter's gang of rag-tag runaways and the evil Pirate Captain Hook is taking place. When I think of Peter Pan I am reminded of the Latin terms Puer Aeternus, a pop-psychology concept of a male adult who is socially immature. Peter pain feared maturing. Let's talk growing up spiritually.

In 1 Peter 1:22 2:3, we learn of Apostle Paul praising his Christian friends because their proof of growth is revealed in their obedience to God. Our spiritual growth shows that we have committed to loving others with a pure heart. We learned last week being a disciple of Jesus requires you to put God above all things. Verse 24 explains why we need faith in a God that is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow. "For all flesh (mankind) is like grass, and all its glory (honor) like [the] flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off, 25 But the Word of the Lord (divine instruction, the Gospel) endures forever. And this Word is the good news which was preached to you.

Spiritual growth happens from inside out. For this reason Paul says to rid of depravity, malignity, deceit, insincerity, hypocrisy, grudges, envy, jealousy, slander, and evil speaking of every kind.  These are all matters of the heart. If we cannot learn to control these hindrances we will be like Peter Pan spiritually.  We will fail to move successfully through the proper stages of our relationship with God.  The simple things will upset us and rock our boat, refusal to acknowledge the doors we have opened, the idea of not growing spiritually will also develop into narcissism. When we do not try to develop our spiritual relationship we are saying we are good where we are and we no longer need God. We put ourselves at the center of the world. 

What would you identify as a continuing area of immaturity in your life?