Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays?

"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)

During this time of the year, around Christmas and the New Year, you will often hear people wish one another "Happy Holidays!"  The idea is that this should be a time of happiness and celebration, especially with family and friends.  Some people also travel somewhere to enjoy themselves and find time to relax.  But for others the holiday season is actually a time of sadness and depression because they are not able to be with family and friends, or they are unhappy because none of the hopes and dreams they had for the holiday season came to pass.

It is certainly good to be able to spend some time with family and friends as well as to get away from the usual routine.  The only problem is that no matter who you are with or where you go, the one constant is you!  Visiting with some people or doing something that will bring us some joy and satisfaction is nice, but no other person and no thing can really make us happy and satisfy us.  Too often people have been disappointed during a special time like Christmas because they are expecting someone to do something for them or for something to happen outside of themselves to make them happy.

If we look for some thing, some person, or some situation to bring us joy and happiness it will at best be short lived.  Christmas, a New Year with all of its hopes and dreams, or any other holiday or special time of year will never be as nice as it could be if we ourselves are not in the right frame of mind and living the right kind of life.  We need to put into practice the advice given to us by the writer of Hebrews, we need to have a life of contentment focusing on the fact that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us and that no matter where we go He will be there to help us and to take care of us.  Doing this will help us, and everyone around us, to have a satisfying life and a really happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Committed To The Course That God Has Given

"And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
Acts 20:22-24 (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul is a great example for us.  Paul was someone who persecuted the church before he became a person who built up the church.   Once Paul became a Christian he found God's plan for his life and he pursued it; Paul did not let anything stop him from doing what God wanted him to do.  Paul is not unique; God has a plan and a purpose for everyone's life.  Like Paul, we all need to be committed to doing God's will no matter what challenges we face.  Paul said he knew that difficulties were going to come to him but he was committed to fulfilling God's plan for his life. 

The biggest factor in determining whether or not we will fulfill the will of God for our life is with us. Just like Paul, we will all face challenges in life.  Following God's plan might not always be the easiest choice for us but it is always the best choice.  If we are committed to doing the will of God then nothing can stop us.  The devil will try many different ways to hinder us and get us off course.  If we get distracted or we stop and give up then we are defeated.  If we are determined to do the will of God no matter what then we will win!

God will speak to us through His Word and by the Holy Spirit to give us the direction we need for every area of our life.  Once we have the direction from God it is then up to us to follow through.  We can read in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 about all of the problems that Paul faced but he did not quit; Paul made the decision that he would follow God's plan no matter what.  What about us?  Do we know God's plan for our life?  Are we committed to fulfilling that plan no matter what?  We need to be like Paul and be committed to finishing the course that God has given to us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pull Out The Weeds Before Planting The Flowers

"Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant."
Jeremiah 1:9, 10 (NKJV)

One of the greatest challenges we will ever face is with our thoughts.  Many people have wrong thoughts and wrong beliefs based on those thoughts that are causing them to be ineffective in what they do.  For example, you may think that you are not able to succeed in life or you may think you are not the kind of person who can do anything great for God.  Thinking like this leads to wrong decisions and wrong actions, which will hold you back and hinder you from doing what you need to do.  To change our life we must change our thinking.

God told Jeremiah that He had put His Words in his mouth, this is a good thing for us as well; we need to say what God has said in His Word.  Next God told Jeremiah to root out, pull down, destroy, throw down, build, and plant.  Notice that God talked twice as much about getting rid of some things as He did about adding some things.  Sometimes we have to remove the wrong thoughts before we can build and plant the right thoughts.  It would be like pulling all the weeds out of your garden before planting the flowers.  To make room for one you have to get rid of the other.

What we think is based on the information we have received, the question is if the information is actually good.  Our beliefs, actions, and the words we speak are based on the things we think about.  If we find ourselves having the wrong kinds of thoughts then we need to remove those thoughts and replace them with thoughts that we find in the Bible.  We have the choice as to what we will think about, it is up to us.  We need to choose to think about the right kinds of things and weed out the wrong kinds of things; this will help us to live the kind of life that God wants us to live.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Walking In Love - Being Moved With Compassion

"But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Matthew 9:36-38 (NKJV)

Jesus is our example in every area of life.  It is good that we have a record of the life of Jesus and the things that He did so we can learn about how He lived and follow His example.  We can know what worked in the life of Jesus and in turn what will work for us.  Wherever Jesus went it seemed that people followed Him.  People came to hear Jesus teach, to get healed, and sometimes people probably just came to see Jesus because they were curious.  What is interesting for us to see is how Jesus acted with these people and how He reacted to them.

In Matthew 9 we see Jesus teaching, preaching, and healing.  After this Jesus saw a multitude of people around Him, there were a lot of people and Jesus noticed that these people needed some help.  How did Jesus react to this multitude and their situation?  Jesus did not just feel sorry for the people because they had problems, He looked for a way to meet the need.  Jesus had a reaction of compassion; He told His disciples that more workers were needed to help these people and to pray for more laborers.  How would we have reacted to this and how do we react to people and their needs today?

Jesus did not say, Oh I wish these people would leave me alone. I've been busy with all my work and now there's this whole crowd that needs help!  No, Jesus reacted with love and compassion realizing the need and seeking a way to meet the need.  We can have a similar reaction because we have God's love in us (Romans 5:5), we can be moved with compassion just like Jesus was.  Jesus did not just focus on what He wanted and what was best for Him, we too need to look past our own needs to the needs of others.  Start looking past the crowd and the problems and start looking at people with compassion and see how you can help to meet their need.  We have the love of God in us, we just need to let it motivate us to help others.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It Is Good To Give Thanks To God

"Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"
Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31 (NKJV)

If we hear something once it might or might not be important.  If we hear something repeated two or three times we usually take notice.  But, when we see something repeated four times it is obviously something we need to pay attention to.  In Psalm 107 this one statement about being thankful is repeated word for word four times, that is significant!  This Psalm is filled with reminders of good things that God has done and it repeats the idea that it would be right for people who have experienced God's goodness to give thanks to God for all of the wonderful things He has done.

A good example of this is seen in the story of Israel coming out of Egypt and traveling through the wilderness to the Promised Land.  When you read the story of this journey, instead of seeing Israel giving thanks to God as they should, you see them complaining about how bad the wilderness is and how wonderful it was back in Egypt (where they were slaves), how they wished they had better food to eat (even though God's provision literally came out of nowhere to feed them), and how every difficulty brought crying and complaining (even though time after time God delivered them).

It is easy for us to say, "Well, if I was in that situation I would be thankful".  But in reality we are often just like the people of Israel, instead of being thankful for what we do have we wish we had something even better.  Certainly there are times when things could be better than they are but we have the choice about what we will focus on.  We can be thankful for what we do have or we can complain about what we don't have.  If we take some time to really consider the good things that God has done in our life it will help us to be thankful.  Make the choice today to be thankful and focused on the good things you have received and not be a complainer about what you don't have.  It is good to give thanks to God!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Following The Direction Of The Holy Spirit

"Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys."
Exodus 40:36-38 (NKJV)

In the Old Testament we find many great stories about God dealing with and helping His people.  There are many examples of spiritual truth in these stories.  One great example is how God led His people through the wilderness.  God brought them out of their bondage in Egypt to lead them into the place He had planned for them.  God did not just deliver them and then tell them to figure out how to get where they needed to go.  God gave Israel a means of continual guidance throughout their journeys, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

The story of how Israel was led by the pillar of cloud and fire shows how God directed His people to know when to move and when not to move.  This is a problem for many Christians.  We sometimes think we need to constantly be in motion and moving forward by doing, doing, doing.  But there will be times that God leads us to a certain place spiritually or even geographically and we need to stay in this place for some time.  We may feel like the scenery, spiritually or geographically, is too boring but unless God is leading us on we should not go further.

Another good example of this is found in the life of Jesus, He only did what His Father directed Him to do (John 5:19).  Jesus was not just doing something to keep busy, Jesus was divinely directed by God in everything that He did and even didn't do; this is a good pattern for us to emulate.  Sometimes it is better for us to stay where we are, doing what we are doing, for a time.  If we are always in a rush to move on to the next thing to do we might miss something that God has for us right where we are!  We need to follow the direction that the Holy Spirit gives us for every area of our lives; when He wants us to move, we follow; when He wants us to stay where we, are we stay.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Your Real Life Is In Christ

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV)

There are a lot of things that we can use to identify ourselves.  Many people have a passport, a driver's license, an identity card, or something else that they can use to show who they are.  The same thing is true for us as Christians, we have something we can use to show who we are and to identify ourselves.  We are not just who we were born as naturally with the identity of a man or woman from some country with some ethnic background.  When we become born again we get a whole new identity and our new identity is found in Christ.

Some people base their identity on the family they come from, the color of their skin, their educational or economic standing, or some other external factor.  But, for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior we now have a new identity.  The Bible tells us in Colossians 3 that we need to have our attention focused on heavenly, spiritual realities because our life, who we really are, is hidden in Christ.  What is even better than this is that our new identity is described to us throughout the New Testament so we have an easy way to learn all about who we really are.

The Bible tells us that we are new creations in Christ, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  No matter what you have done in the past, good or bad, you have a new start with God in Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that we are now the righteousness of God in Christ, we have the same right standing with God that Jesus does!  These are just a few of the things about who we really are in Christ.  We need to learn about our true identity from God's Word and know who we are in Christ.  Once we know who we really are it will change how we live and help us to change the world!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prayer, It's Not Just For Emergencies

"Pray without ceasing"
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV)

Prayer is a topic that is often misunderstood.  Some people think prayer is some mystical experience that can only be done by super spiritual people.  Others think that prayer is going to God and begging and pleading with Him to convince Him to do something.  Still other people think that prayer is nothing more than a desperate, last resort that is only used in great times of crisis.  But, none of these views are based on what the Bible says about prayer.  Prayer is simply communication with God and it can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul encouraged believers to pray without ceasing.  Did Paul mean that all Christians should be talking to God nonstop?  This is obviously not correct.  So what did Paul mean when he talked about praying without ceasing?  What else does the Bible say about this?  In Luke 18:1 Jesus talked about people always praying and not giving up or fainting.  In Romans 12:12 Paul told the believers to continue to persevere in prayer.  All three of these verses show us that prayer is something we need to do on a regular, persistent basis and we need to be ready to pray at all times.

Prayer should not be a difficult and strenuous activity that wears us down.  Prayer is communicating with God and it should be done on a regular basis and not just in an emergency.  Our foundation for prayer is what God has already said in His Word and as we pray we take our place as a child of our loving Heavenly Father to fellowship with Him and do business with Him, to bring our requests to Him and to receive His wisdom. We all need to have a lifestyle of prayer where we bring our problems to God but where we also come to worship God and to spend time with Him and to allow Him to speak to us.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reminding Yourself To Remember

"Beloved, I now write to you in this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,"
2 Peter 3:1, 2 (NKJV)

Most people today lead very busy lives and because of that it can be easy to lose track of and forget things.  There are many ways you can remind yourself about appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates and events.  There are apps for smart phones that can remind you, reminders in your calendar, and other things you can do to remember what is really important.  What is true for our "natural" side of life is also true for our "spiritual" side of life, we need to be sure that we remember what is important and to do that we have to remind ourselves about those things.

The apostle Peter wrote two letters to believers and in chapter three of his second letter Peter mentions something very significant.  Peter said in both letters that he wanted to remind the people he wrote to about something that was very important.  Peter wanted to remind them to remember the things written in God's Word.  Peter said he wanted to stir up the minds of the believers to be sure that they would not forget what is really important, God's Word.  We too need to keep ourselves stirred up and remember what God's Word has to say about us and our lives.

In Hebrews 2:1 we are told to pay attention to what we have heard so that we don't just let it slip away from us.  It is easy to get so caught up in the busyness of life that we fail to keep our attention on what is really important and where our real source of strength and help comes from.  God has given us His Word to show us who He is and how He looks at us.  God's Word shows us what Jesus has provided for us and who we are in Christ.  We all need to be sure to have a regular time with God and His Word to keep ourselves reminded about all that God has done for us and revealed to us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Best Bible Teacher Of All

"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 things that I said to you."
John 14:26 (NKJV)

Most Christians have a favorite Bible teacher.  It may be their pastor, a home group leader, a teacher in a Bible school, or some minister they have heard somewhere in person or on television.  But no matter who it is, it seems we all have a teacher that we always enjoy listening to and we always seem to learn something great from them.  We read in Ephesians 4:11 that the teacher is one of the gifts that Jesus gave to the Church, so teachers must be important.  In churches and Bible schools there are many great teachers today but we must realize that the best Bible teacher of all is the Holy Spirit.

While we may enjoy the speaking style some person has or the way they relate their topic to an everyday life situation, if we are learning something about the Bible while listening to our favorite teacher we need to understand that it is really the greatest teacher of all, the Holy Spirit, who is revealing the truth to us.  If we look to the Holy Spirit, the best Bible teacher of all, and not just to the person we may be listening to, we will receive the truth we need when we need it.  If we just get focused on the person that is speaking and we don't realize that the person is only a channel and a vessel that the Holy Spirit works through we may miss something.

Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to us and that the Holy Spirit would help us by teaching us all things.  This is so wonderful because the Holy Spirit lives in us and He knows exactly how to teach us and reveal God's Word to us to answer the questions that we have and to help us deal with the situations we face in life.  We must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the Word of God and expect Him to speak to us through the man or woman of God we are hearing in our church, home group, or wherever.  The Holy Spirit is the best Bible teacher of all and He will teach us what we need to know when we need to know it, and He can use a variety of people to do it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our Greatest Source Of Problems

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)

Everyone will have some problems sometime in their life.  Some people seem to have more problems than others and some people have problems that they never seem to be able to fix.  While there can be many reasons that there are problems in our life, one of the biggest reasons we have problems is often overlooked.  Many times the greatest source of the problems in our life is us; if we want to know who to blame for our troubles we often just need to look in the mirror!  There are times we are in difficult situations simply because we are reaping the results of the things we have sown.

When we have problems we want to point a finger at other people, our circumstances, or even the devil; we want to blame someone for what is happening but we don't realize that sometimes we just need to be honest and blame ourselves for our problems.  We make a poor choice that results in something bad happening, or we get involved with a person who is not so right with God and trouble develops.  It can be true that other people, our circumstances, and even the devil can be a source of trouble but sometimes we will just have to admit that we may be the greatest source of our own problems.

While we can be the greatest source of problems in our own life we can also do something about our problems.  We need to use wisdom and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every area of our life, everyday.  We must make it a habit to spend regular time with God in His Word and in prayer to know His plan and direction for our life and then follow it.  But even if we have caused our own problems, when we go to God He will be there to help us and guide out of the mess we have created and bring us back to the place He wants us to be.  There will always be problems and difficulties in life but by doing the right things we can chart a course that will avoid some of major problems that many people face in life. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Company You Keep Is Important

"After they were permitted to go, the apostles returned to their own company and told all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. And when they heard it, lifted their voices together with one united mind to God and said, O Sovereign Lord, You are He Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything that is in them,"
Acts 4:23, 24 (Amplified)

There is a story in Acts 4 that tells about the apostles getting into trouble with the religious leaders in Jerusalem for preaching the Gospel message.  The religious leaders told them not to preach in the Name of Jesus anymore and they even threatened the apostles before they let them go.  What is interesting is what happened next, the apostles went back to the group of believers that they were already a part of; the apostles had their own group of people that they could go to for help in their time of trouble.

Who do we turn to for support when we face a difficult situation?  Who is it that we can rely on for help and wise counsel when there is a problem in our life?  The answer to these questions will go a long way to determining what the outcome of our situation will be.  If we have built good relationships with the right kind of people then we too will have our own godly group of people to support us and help us in our time of trouble.  If we do not have good relationships with people who can help us, the people we do turn to may only be contributing to our downfall.

Everyone has relationships with people like their neighbors, co-workers, or even family members who may not always be as helpful and supportive as they could or should be.  But, it is who we choose to build relationships with that is important.  We need relationships with people who will build us up and not tear us down when problems come, people like the apostles own group who turned to God for the answer and did not just focus on the problem.  If we look around and see that we don't have these kinds of friends then it is time to build some new relationships; we need to seek out good, godly people and build relationships with them.  The apostles in the Book of Acts had these kinds of friends, what about us?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stay In The Word And You Will Know The Word

"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:31, 32 (NKJV)

Our society today is all about everything happening quickly.  There are fast food restaurants that even have drive through windows, we have microwave ovens that heat and reheat food in minutes, and there are shortcuts and tips and tricks for computers and computer programs.  So much of what we have in life is designed to get things done as fast as possible to minimize the amount of time we have to wait to move on to something else.  This is all well and good but when we carry this same mentality over to God, His Word, and spiritual things we can get into trouble.

We often want to run to God's Word in a hurry and find just the right verse we need to apply to our situation and find a quick solution to the problem at hand and then go off to the next task.  But, in John 8 we see a different mentality.  Jesus said that if we truly want to be disciple, to be a follower of Jesus, we have to stay in the Word and this will allow us to know the Word.  Jesus did not say to take a quick glance at the Word or just to give attention to God's Word once and a while; the idea Jesus gave was that we would spend a significant amount of time with His Word.

Jesus said in John 8 that we need to "abide" in His Word, Colossians 3:16 says that we need to let God's Word dwell in us richly, James 1:25 tells us to keep looking into the perfect law of liberty, God's Word, and to then be a doer of it.  Many people have not taken the time necessary to really know God's Word and as a result it is not a reality in their life and the Word produces no fruit in their life.  We need to spend time reading and studying God's Word on a regular and continual basis and then apply it to our life.  By doing this we will know the Word and experience its powerful working in our life.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Walking In Love - The Golden Rule

"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 7:12 (NKJV)

When I was growing up I remember hearing people talk about what they called "The Golden Rule".  The Golden Rule is something some people take from what Jesus said in Matthew 7:12 with the idea being that you should treat people the way that you want to be treated.  This is generally a very good concept and Matthew 7:12 also says that this "Golden Rule" is what the Law and the Prophets is all about.  Much of what is known as the 10 Commandments refers to our relationships with others and this is how treating people the right way relates to the Law and the Prophets.

In the New Testament we are told that love, walking in love, fulfills the Law (Romans 13:10) and that the Law is fulfilled in loving your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14).  If we are walking in love then we will treat others exactly the way that we would wish to be treated.  Think about what it would be like if people, and especially Christians who have the love of God within them (Romans 5:5), would treat others the way they wanted to be treated.  Often we want other people to treat us like kings and queens while we treat those same people as servants.

If we looked at situations from the standpoint of what is best for the other person and we then acted accordingly it would be a shocking experience for many people.  If we did everything we possibly could to help someone, considering how much help we would want to have if we were the other person in the situation, we would not only be a great help to those around us but we would be making use of the love of God that is in us.  We need to look for opportunities to put the love of God in us into action and treat others the same way that we would like them to treat us.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don't Let An Offense Become A Barrier

"Then He said to the disciples, It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come."
Luke 17:1 (NKJV)

There is one thing you need to get settled right now, some time, in some place, in some way, someone will do something that will offend you.  The thing is not if an offense will come or not but it is just a matter of when and how it will come.  Jesus said it is impossible that no offenses would come so being offended is something we can be sure will happen to us sooner or later.  The important thing is what we do after we are offended.  One key to living a successful life is not found in avoiding problems, and even offenses, but what we do after we have a problem or get offended.

Like everyone else in the world I have had the experience of being offended.  I can recall times when a person did or said something that was uncalled for and even rude.  My initial reaction was to be upset and offended by it but I also realized that I can either move on in my life and get over the difficulty that just came my way or I could allow this offense to become a landmark in my life.  Unfortunately, that is how some people react. I have met people who were offended and that offense became a hindrance in their life that they focused on and never moved forward from and the offense became a barrier that they never seemed to cross over.

So, what can we do if we are offended?  The first thing I would say, and what I have done myself, is to realize that these kinds of things happen; offenses are not a rare occurrence so we should not be shocked and surprised when they come.  Secondly, we must choose to not hold any bitterness towards the person that was involved in the offense.  Holding a grudge, being bitter and unforgiving, will only hurt us and have no impact on the other person or the situation anyway.  We need to learn to let things go and move on in life so that the offenses we experience do not become a barrier in our life that prevents us from moving forward into what God wants us to do.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Following The Witness Of The Holy Spirit

"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,"
Romans 8:16 (NKJV)

Being led by the Holy Spirit is a topic that every Christian needs to understand, this is one of the most important things the Holy Spirit will do for us.  Too often we allow what we know in our mind and what we feel and experience to be the guiding forces in our life but God has given us His Spirit to live inside of us and give us direction.  We can always start out by doing what we do know about God's will, this is what we find in the Bible, and we can then look to the witness of the Holy Spirit to go on to further specific steps in the will of God.

Many Christians know that we need to be led by the Holy Spirit, as it says in Romans 8:14, but they do not understand the witness of the Spirit that Paul was talking about in Romans 8:16.  When it says that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit it simply means that there is an agreement between the Holy Spirit and our spirit.  The words "bears witness with" here literally mean "to testify jointly".  It would be like two people testifying in a courtroom about something they saw, if both people tell the same thing then they are bearing witness with one another, this is the same thing as the witness of the Holy Spirit.

A very simple way to explain it is that when we have the witness of the Holy Spirit we will have peace in our spirit, in our heart; when there is no witness of the Spirit in our heart then there is no peace.  If we were to go into some store and steal something, then in our own spirit we would not have peace because the Holy Spirit would not agree with us stealing something.  If we learn to pay attention to and develop a sensitivity to the witness of the Holy Spirit, which is the main way the Holy Spirit will lead us, we will know what steps to take in the will of God and how to take them.  We need to learn to recognize the witness of the Spirit in our spirit.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Living In Perfect Peace

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."
Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

Peace is something that pretty much everyone wants.  No one really desires to live in a constant state of being distressed and unhappy, but sometimes that is the way people live.  Some people think that getting everyone and everything else around them in order is what they need, but what they really need is personal peace.  Many people deal with depression, anxiety, fear, worry, and other similar issues and they have no peace, let alone perfect peace.  All these issues stem from the things we think about; what we think about determines whether or not we will live in peace.

Many people have problems in their thought life, they are often thinking about the wrong kinds of things and this leads to turmoil in their mind and in their life.  When we face a difficult situation we usually start thinking about what we need to do to solve the problem.  What we should do first is to think about what the Bible has to say and see what God's solution to the problem is.  While I am certainly not saying we can't use some good plans and ideas that come from the things we already know and understand, we cannot live a successful life just by figuring everything out on our own.

What can we do to live in peace?  Isaiah 26:3 tells us how to do this; we need to keep our mind focused on God.  We also see that it says in Isaiah that a person is kept in perfect peace because that person trusts in God.  Many times we are getting stressed and worried about some situation because we are not trusting God and focusing on His Word.  We must fill our mind with God's Word; when our thoughts line up with God's thoughts we will live in peace.  When our thoughts are not in agreement with what the Bible has to say we will not have peace.  Put God's Word in first place in your life and focus your thoughts on Him, that is how you can live in perfect peace.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Christians Are Led By The Holy Spirit

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
Romans 8:14 (NKJV)

One thing that should be a distinguishing mark in the life of a Christian is being led by the Spirit of God.  As New Testament, New Covenant believers we have the Holy Spirit living in us.  One of the things that the Holy Spirit will do for us is that He will lead us and guide us in life.  What does it mean to be led by the Holy Spirit?  Saying we are led by the Holy Spirit simply means that we follow the direction that the Holy Spirit gives us.  As children of God we have the Holy Spirit inside of us but it is our choice whether or not we will follow His direction or if we will follow something else.

There are a lot of things that people use for guidance in life.  Some people live by their emotions, when they are feeling good then everything is great and they are ready to conquer the world.  But, when they are sad and feeling discouraged then they just want to hide away and quit.  Some people are led by their circumstances, they think that good circumstances mean they are doing the right things and bad circumstances and situations in life mean that they are doing something wrong.  Some Christians are led by other people and the advice that they get from their trusted friends.  Other people are led by experiences, their own and others, or they are led by logical reasoning and their thinking.

The Holy Spirit is always there to lead us and guide us, no matter how we feel, no matter what circumstances we face, and no matter what other people say or do.  So often we are dominated by all of the things going on around us that we are not looking for the guidance that God will give us by the Holy Spirit.  We need to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and become acquainted with Him and how He will lead us.  Make the choice today that you will follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every area of your life and allow Him to give you the direction that you need.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Our Words: Building Blocks Or A Wrecking Ball

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]."
Proverbs 18:21 (Amplified)

Did you ever go by a construction site and watch as workmen built a building?  First a foundation is laid, then the floor, the walls, and the roof are all put in place; it can take some time to do it right but with diligent work it will happen.  Sometimes it is just laying one brick after another in a lengthy process that ultimately results in a fine structure.  Just like a building is built brick by brick we can build up the lives of others with our words; our words can be building blocks of life, strength, health, and encouragement.

Have you ever seen a building being torn down?  A building that took a long time to be built can be destroyed in a very short time with a wrecking ball.  The building may have had a good design and dedicated workers who took the time to carefully put together each part, but once the wrecking ball starts to swing it all comes crashing down.  When we use our words in the wrong way, when we speak negative, critical words, then we are using our words like a wrecking ball and we can tear other people down with the words we speak.

Sometimes the only words people have heard were the negative kind about how they are no good and they will never amount to anything, those are the kinds of words that are like the wrecking ball.  We need to choose our words carefully and build things into other people.  We can share words of hope and strength saying that no matter what is happening that we serve a God who will help us; we can use our words to encourage others and tell them that they can achieve great things.  We have the choice about the kind of words we will speak, let's choose the right words that will build people up and not the kind of words that will tear them down.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Value Of Stillness And Quiet

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

One thing that we do not have a great abundance of in this world is stillness and quiet.  Sometimes there is so much happening in our lives that we don't take the time to just be still, get quiet, and listen to what God has to say.  There are times when our mind and our body are so active that we have a difficult time listening to what God is saying to us in our hearts.  If we want to be successful in life and effective with what we do for God we must find time to close out all of the things going on around us, be still, and spend time with God.

We live in a world of mass communication and often we have so many sources of input and so many different voices speaking to us that we have trouble knowing what we should really listen to.  Sometimes it seems as though we have forgotten to use the "off switch" for all of the things going on in our life and we have gotten to the point where we just accept all of this constant activity as normal.  If we are always busy with phone calls, emails, Facebook posts, tweets, appointments, activities with friends and family, projects, and so on we will become more outward focused and less inward sensitive.

God will speak to us, but with all of the other things we have going on His voice might be hard to distinguish.  God is not going to shout to make Himself heard above all of our activities and noise but when we take the time to stop, to be still, and get quiet to spend some time with Him we will find that He is ready and waiting.  If you have been feeling stressed, overloaded with work and the concerns of life, or if you just need to get some clarification from God about how He wants you to do some things then it is time be still, get quiet, and spend some time with God.  Be still and give God the opportunity to speak to you today.

Friday, August 9, 2013

But Lord, What About Them?

... And when He had spoken this, He said to him, Follow Me.
Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?"
John 21:19, 20 (NKJV)
One of the greatest problems people have in life is distractions. It is so easy for us to lose our focus and get looking around to see what else is happening and not pay attention to what we ought to be doing.  This is especially true when it comes to our checking to see what other people are doing.  Once we start comparing ourselves and what we are doing with what other people are doing we are distracted; we can either be doing what we should do or we can be distracted.  If we let ourselves get sidetracked and distracted we will never really do the things that God wants us to do.
We can see this problem in the life of Peter when Jesus gave Peter some direction about what to do.  Peter did not stop and say "Oh, thank you Lord! Now I know what to do and focus on in my life and I can pursue that."  No, what Peter did is similar to what a lot of us do; right away Peter saw someone else and asked Jesus, "What about them?"  God has a plan and a purpose for each person's life and that plan is for that person and not subject to our approval.  God knows better than we do what people ought to spend their time doing.  If we are spending our time looking around and making judgments about whether or not someone else is doing the right thing then we are probably not doing our thing.

It is important for each one of us to put our attention on to the work that God has called us to do and not be distracted by looking around to see what others are doing.  The next time you catch yourself looking around at other people and wondering if they are doing what they are supposed to do put your focus back on the things that God has called you to do.  Comparing our lives with the lives of others and making judgments about whether or not what someone else is doing is right will only lead us into distraction and despair; doing the things that God has called us to do will lead to a successful, satisfied life.

Friday, August 2, 2013

God Gives You A Future And A Hope

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

No one has a perfect past, everyone can look back in their life and see some mistake or missed opportunity that they would change if they could.  It is good to know that it is not so important where you start in life but it is important what you do after you start.  Some people may have been born into a better situation than others, but whether or not someone succeeds in life is more about what they do with their life than the condition they were born into.  No matter where you are today, or where you have come from, you can go forward to something better!

There are some people who feel as though their life has no purpose, that there is no hope.  But with God there is always hope!  In Jeremiah God tells us that He is thinking good thoughts about us, not evil thoughts.  God is not thinking about all of the mistakes and problems we have had in the past but God is thinking about the possibilities we have for a bright future.  If we would just get connected with God and the plan He has for our life we would do great things for God.  God has bigger and better plans for us than we have thought for ourselves.

What we all need to do from this day forward is forget about the past and start looking ahead.  Maybe you are in a bad situation; maybe you do have some difficulties.  Jesus told us that in this world we would have problems but that He has overcome the world!  Get connected with God through His Word and talk to God in prayer.  Let Him guide you and direct you from where you are today to where you need to be tomorrow.  Allow God to help you right the wrongs and trust Him to show you the bright future and hope that He has for you!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Knowledge AND Understanding

"that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,"
Ephesians 1:16, 17 (NKJV)

Ephesians 1 shows us a prayer that Paul prayed for the people in the church at Ephesus.  Ephesus was a city that Paul had been to on several occasions and Paul had even taught in a school there for two years.  Still, Paul was praying for the believers there to get something.  These people already had some knowledge about the things of God, so Paul was not just praying that these Christians would gain more knowledge, Paul was praying that they would gain an understanding of what they had already learned.  It is one thing to know something but it is something else to understand it.

I may know about electricity and how to turn on a light but that does not mean I understand electricity and I am qualified to be an electrician.  We may have knowledge of some facts but what do those facts mean?  Many people know facts about God and the Bible but they do not have any understanding.  I have had several conversations with people who clearly knew something about the Bible but they did not really understand it.  If we only know facts without having any understanding we can easily be led astray by wrong teaching and have trouble living the kind of life God has planned for us.

How do we get an understanding about what the Bible says and go beyond just the facts to get the meaning of those facts and then put them into practice in our life?  We first need to read and study the Bible for ourselves; to have a greater understanding of the Bible we need to take time to learn what it says.  But, the biggest key to getting an understanding of the Bible is to look to the Holy Spirit for help.  Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is our Helper who would teach us all things (John 14:26) and that He will guide us into the truth (John 16:13).  We all need to spend time reading and studying the Bible and then trust the Holy Spirit to help us gain a greater understanding of God's Word so that we can take advantage of it and put it into use in our life.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jesus Sets You Free

"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
John 8:31, 32, 36 (NKJV)
People have a natural desire to be free, no one what to be in slavery or bondage to anyone or anything.  The life of a slave is dominated by their master; the slave is completely controlled by someone other than themselves.  Mankind was bound by sin because of the disobedience of Adam, but mankind has been delivered from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ.  Now, just like a slave who has been legally set free only has to leave his former master to live a new life, mankind must receive Jesus Christ to walk in the freedom and liberty that He provides.
The desire people have to be free from wrong habits, wrong thoughts, and wrong desires has driven them to many things.  But, the only true liberty and freedom that can be found comes through Jesus!  In John 8, Jesus made statements about people being His disciples, staying with His Word, knowing the truth, and being free.  These are not separate thoughts but they fit together.  To be a follower of Jesus, to be a disciple of Jesus, to be a Christian, means to know and stay with the Word of God.  John 1:1, 14 tells us that Jesus is the Word.  To be free means to know Jesus and to know Jesus means to know the Word.

Jesus came to set us free, and to keep us free.  Once we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are like the slave who has been legally set free, we can now leave our former master and live a new life.  Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1 that we need to stand firm in the liberty we have in Christ and not go back to living under the Law.  In Romans 6 Paul talks about how we have been set free from being slaves to sin so that we can now become dedicated to righteousness.  God wants us to live a life of freedom but it can only happen through Jesus and staying with the Word of God.  What is trying to put you into bondage today?  Stand firm in the liberty you have in Christ and don't let anything put you into bondage.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Give Yourself To God First

"And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God."
2 Corinthians 8:5 (NKJV)

This is a good pattern for Christians to follow, first give yourself to God and follow Him.  After we have given ourselves to God then we give ourselves to others.  Our relationship with God comes first, then our relationship with people and other ministers follow.  If we keep our priorities right, with our relationship with God always coming first, then our relationships with others will function the way that they should.  If we put other relationships first and our relationship with God second we will have problems in relationships because we will look for something from people that only God can supply.

Many Christians have gotten this pattern backwards and they first give themselves to people, especially their favorite minister, and then they follow God.  We first of all follow God and not just some minister or teaching.  We certainly should be committed to our pastor, and any other minister we may have a relationship with; but again, the first place our commitment goes is to God.  Our commitment to God and our relationship with Him will be reflected in our relationship with others and help us to serve others more effectively.

God has given us some wonderful men and women who are gifted to teach and preach the Word of God, but they are still not God.  Our main source of revelation and inspiration should be from God through His Word by the Holy Spirit.  If we first give ourselves to God and allow Him to lead us and teach us then what we get through others will confirm and add to what God has already shown us.  We need to keep our priorities in relationships right and first of all give ourselves to God and then let Him show us the other people and ministers we should be connected with.  This is the correct pattern and doing this will help us to have the right relationship with God and with others.

Friday, July 5, 2013

I Can Do _____ Through Christ

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

"I have strength for anything through Him who gives me power."
Philippians 4:13 (Weymouth)

There are times when we read the Bible that we interpret it based on our own life and experiences.  For example, when some people read Philippians 4:13 they think it is some figurative statement or that there are certain limitations to what it means, but this verse means exactly what it says.  God has told us that we can do anything He leads us to do because of the ability that He gives us in Christ.  What does that mean?  It means that God is our source and our Helper and He will empower us to do whatever we need to do.

When we see something in the Bible that we know we need to do, or if God directs us by the Holy Spirit to do something, it may seem as though we can't do it.  We need to get it settled within ourselves that if God is leading us then God knows exactly what it will take for us to do that thing and He will help us and equip us to do it!  We need to understand that God is not expecting us to do it all on our own.  Whether it is direction to know what to do, wisdom to do something the right way, or the strength and ability to do something, God will give it to us.

What things do you need to do in your life, where do you need to make a change?  Is God talking to you about getting involved somewhere in your church and you are not sure if you can do it?  Maybe you want to be a better parent, or a better spouse, or just a better Christian who is more effective for God.  What is it that you have seen in the Bible that has stirred you or challenged you?  Whatever it is, you can be sure that God will always give you the wisdom, direction, strength, and ability to do it.  Our bold confession should be exactly what Philippians 4:19 says, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Your Words Set The Course For Your Life

"For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!"
James 3:2-5 (NKJV)

The words we use are far more important than most people have realized.  Some people have gotten the wrong idea about the value of our words, in part because of some extreme, unbiblical teaching in this area.  However, a study of what the Bible teaches about words will show the significance of the words we use in our everyday life.  The words we speak every day will set the course for our life.  The direction our life is headed today is based on the words we have spoken in the past.

In James 3:2-5 we have a couple of good examples of how our words work.  First, James gives the example of a bit in the horses' mouth, that little thing can direct a huge animal and guide it to where it needs to go.  Next, James talks about the rudder on a ship and how the pilot can set the direction the ship will go with a just very small part of the ship.  Then James says that in the same way the tongue is small but it can do big things.  If we want to set our course in life, if we want to turn some things around in our life, it is going to happen through our words.

So what should we be saying, what should we talk about?  What we need to do is find out what the Bible has to say and talk about that.  It is not as though our words have some magic power to them, but when our words are in agreement with God's Word we are allowing God an open door to move in our life.  If our words are contrary to God's Word we restrict His operation in our life.  Our words will set the course for our life; make sure you choose your words wisely and say the things that God has to say in His Word about every area of your life.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Living A Life Of True Contentment

"Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."
Philippians 4:11 (NKJV)

Paul was a normal human being who, even though he was called and gifted by God, faced life's difficulties just like the rest of us.  Paul told the Philippians that he had learned how to be content, no matter what was happening.  Paul was specifically talking about financial support, but I believe this can apply to every area of our life.  Paul was able to do the things God had called him to do because He had learned how to live a life independent of his feelings and circumstances, this is something we need to do too if we want to be successful in life.

So many people live a life of discontent, they are not satisfied with their life.  The key to living a stable, happy life is found in the definition of the Greek word Paul used in Philippians 4:11 for "contentment".  In the Greek language this word carries the meaning of being "independent of circumstances".  This is what living a life of true contentment, a satisfied, happy life is all about.  If we are dependent on some person or thing making us happy we will never be satisfied.  If we put our focus on God and His Word we can live a life of stability and victory.

Deuteronomy 28:67 talks about people who because of their fear and the things happening around them would say in the morning, "I wish it was evening" and in the evening, "I wish it was morning", this is a picture of dissatisfaction, discontent.  If we are thinking, "I wish this was happening", or "If that person would just act a certain way", or "If only this thing was different" we have our focus in the wrong place.  People, circumstances, and our feelings will change but God and His Word do not change; this is where our focus has to be, that is what we must build our life on.  This is how we can live a life of true contentment and satisfaction!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stand, Stand, And Keep On Standing

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore ..."
Ephesians 6:11, 13, 14a (NKJV)

Sometimes if we are not careful we read over things in the Bible and we miss the significance of what is being said.  A good example of this is in Ephesians 6:11-14 where Paul begins talking about the armor of God.  In these verses Paul uses the word "stand" three times and the word "withstand" once, I think this is very important.  We might focus on the armor and the different pieces, or we may think about how we have an enemy who will attack us, but I believe it is extremely vital for us to realize that Paul mentioned standing, in some way, four times.

Paul said to take up, to put on, the whole armor of God and stand.  Paul did not say to put on the armor and hide or put on the armor and run away, Paul said we must stand.  Christians need to recognize that we have an enemy, we need to put on the whole armor of God, know who we are in Christ and understand the authority we have in Christ.  But, once we take our stand in faith and resist the devil, we stand, stand, and keep on standing!  We need to know how to stand so we can keep on standing no matter what.

The Bible tells us that we stand by grace (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 5:12), we stand by faith (Romans 11:20; 1 Corinthians 16:13), and that we need to stand firm in the Lord (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:8).  When we put all of this together we get a complete picture of what it means to stand: we stand by the grace of God (His ability working in us), by faith (on His Word), and in the Lord (who we are in Christ and not who we are in ourselves).  No matter what situation you may find yourself in, take a stand in faith and allow the grace of God to empower you to remain in your place in Christ.  Then, keep on standing triumphantly in Christ and you will win!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Do You Know That The Holy Spirit Lives In You?

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 
"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?"
1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 (NKJV)

One of the greatest differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament has to do with the Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit would come on people to empower them to do the work that God had called those people to do.  The problem was that the Holy Spirit was not available to everyone.  However, today as New Testament believers in Jesus Christ, as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit in us!  This is such a wonderful truth but it seems that a lot of Christians don't even know about it

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul asked them the same question twice, "Don't you know that the Holy Spirit is in you"?  These people were Christians so they already had the Holy Spirit in them.  Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit on the spirit of man (Titus 3:4-6) where someone becomes a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Paul said in Romans 8:9 if you don't have the Spirit of God then you are not even in relationship with God.  Once we become a Christian we have the Greater One, the Holy Spirit in us (1 John 4:4) and His job is to help us, teach us, and guide us (John 14:26, Romans 8:14).

The problem many Christians have today is what Paul was talking to the Corinthians about; do we recognize that the Holy Spirit is in us?  Do we have our attention on circumstances, our feelings, other people's opinions or do we focus on the Helper we have living inside of us?  If we put our attention on the Holy Spirit in us, if we allow Him to direct us and help us, then He will lead us into triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14), He will give us the strength we need (Ephesians 3:16), and He will guide us into the truth (John 16:13).  Thank God for the Holy Spirit, let's allow Him to help us do what God has called us to do!

Friday, May 31, 2013

How Do You React To The Truth?

"Now when they heard this, there were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"."
"When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;"
Acts 2:37; 7:54, 57 (NKJV)

The Book of Acts shows us two incidents where people heard the truth and then reacted to it.  The first story is from Acts 2 and it took place on the Day of Pentecost when Peter spoke to the multitude.  As Peter preached a message to the people it tells us that those people were "cut to the heart" by what they heard.  The multitude reacted by asking what they should do; they heard the truth and they willingly received it.  There is another story similar to this in Acts 7 where there was a much different reaction to the truth.

In Acts 7 Stephen is speaking to a group of people, these people also had a reaction when they too were "cut to the heart" by what they heard.  The thing is that this group of people in Acts 7 didn't ask about what they needed to do to change, they got mad about the truth they heard and they attacked and killed Stephen!   The group of people in Acts 7 who heard the truth rejected it and were upset with the messenger.  In both cases people heard the truth from God's Word and they had a reaction; there is something we can learn from these stories.

How do we react when we hear the truth from God's Word, how do we respond when we hear a message that "cuts us to the heart"?  Are we willing to humble ourselves, receive the truth, and make an adjustment or do we get upset with the person we heard the truth from or make some excuse why the truth we have learned somehow does not apply to us?  When we hear the truth we need to accept it and then act on it.  If we do this we will develop and grow up spiritually, if we don't do this we will stay in a state of spiritually immaturity.  My choice is to be a doer of the truth that I learn and not just a hearer, how about you?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Faith And Patience Get The Promise

"And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
Hebrews 6:11, 12 (NKJV)

The Bible is filled with stories about people.  Some Bible stories are very uplifting and inspiring while others are given to us as warnings to help us avoid doing things the way other people did them and getting ourselves into trouble.  Romans 15:4 tells us that the things that were written before, in the Old Testament, were written for our learning.  In Hebrews 6 we get some specific instruction about the kind of people we need to pay attention to and imitate, the people who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

In our world today so much takes place very quickly, this is nice but it can be a problem when this expectation is placed on spiritual things.  We can get into trouble if we expect God to do something instantly every time, all the time.  In Hebrews 6 we are told that both faith and patience are involved in receiving from God.  In Hebrews 10:36 we are told that we need patience so that after we have done the will of God we can receive the promise.  Too many Christians expect instant results when they exercise their faith and then when something does not happen immediately they get discouraged and they usually give up.

Two of the greatest enemies Christians have to their faith are the clock and the calendar.  Our problem comes when we expect results in a specific period of time.  While God can do things instantaneously some things will take time; a good example of this is if we are exercising our faith for financial provision.  God is not going to drop a bag of money out of the sky to meet our needs, we will have to exercise faith and patience so that after we have done our part in the will of God we will obtain the promise.  Whatever it is you need from God, find Bible verses that deal with that situation, take a stand in faith and exercise patience; when you do this you will receive the promise!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Confidence And Success In Prayer

"Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that is we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."
1 John 5:14, 15 (NKJV)

If you asked Christians what prayer is and how to be successful in prayer you would probably get a lot of different answers.  Some people think success in prayer is based on the amount of people that pray about a certain thing.  Other people think that the length of time that you pray is vital while others would even say that the volume that you pray at is important.  For some people prayer is nothing more than a wish or a hope that whatever it is they are praying about will work the way they want it to.  But prayer is simply us talking to God and not some spiritual form of begging or a necessary ritual we have to perform to satisfy some religious requirement.

If we really want to know how to pray and what God says about prayer we need to look into God's Word, the Bible.  1 John 5:14, 15 are key verses for prayer that help us to understand that we can have confidence and success in prayer.  For us to have successful prayers, our prayers have to be based on God's will, which we find in God's Word. If our prayers are based on God's Word then we can be confident that God not only hears us but that we are going to receive the things that we have asked God for; when we pray we must base our prayer on what God has already said in His Word.

Over the years that I have been involved in ministry and working with people I have found that prayer is an area of a lot of confusion. Many Christians seem to have no confidence in their own prayers and they think if they get some minister to pray for them they will have more success than if they pray for themselves.  Prayer is not something that we should dread due to uncertainty in the outcome but prayer is a wonderful opportunity for us to talk with our Heavenly Father.  By using God's Word as our foundation for our prayers we can be confident and have success in our prayer life, that is how God wants it to be!

Friday, May 10, 2013

What Are Your Words Doing?

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."
Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

Over and over again in the Bible we see the importance of our words.  For example, if you read through the book of Proverbs you will see many verses that talk about the value of the right kinds of words and what our words can do for us and for others. In Ephesians 4 it tells us that we should not let any corrupt, literally "rotten", words come out of our mouth.  We are also told that we need to speak words that will edify and impart grace to those who hear us.  This is more than just a nice thought, it is a key to our success in life.

What do our words do for other people?  Are we speaking the kinds of words that build people up and encourage them or are we speaking rotten, corrupt words that only tear people down?  When people come to us with a problem, a question, or they are just spending time with us at work or as a friend, do our words inspire them on to victory and success or do our words wear those people down and discourage them?  Christians should be the kind of people who always have something uplifting to say, Christians should not be the kind of people who find ways to criticize others or say things that are hurtful.

What do our words do for us?  There will be times when we have to go it alone without much if any support from others and we need to know how to speak edifying words to ourselves, sometimes we have to be our own best cheerleader.  It is so important for our own life and the lives of those around us to be the kind of people who can always bring a timely word of encouragement.  Find out what the Bible says so that no matter what situation arises you will always have something good to say.  Let's all make the decision that we will be encouraging, uplifting people that say the right things at the right time to build up ourselves and others.

Friday, May 3, 2013

How Much Of Something Bad Is Too Much?

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some."
2 Timothy 2:15-18 (NKJV)

If you were cooking some food, how much poison would you add to the ingredients?  The obvious answer is none, it is a foolish question.  How about sickness, would it be OK to have a little bit of cancer or some other terminal disease?  What about poverty?  Is it a good idea to not be able to pay your bills and have some poverty?  Again, the answer is that no one would want even a little of these bad things.  But when it comes to spiritual things, the teaching we listen to, and the people we allow to influence us, do we sometimes allow just a little bit of wrong teaching because it is a well known speaker or it is a popular doctrine?

Paul told Timothy to be diligent and know how to correctly interpret God's Word.  Paul also told Timothy to "shun" the wrong kind of teaching because it will lead to more ungodliness and spread like cancer.  Many people are stricter about their natural diet than their spiritual diet and then they wonder why their faith is weak, they don't know what to do, and their life is generally in a mess.  If we want to be strong stable Christians we need to be as diligent about our spiritual food as we are about the other important areas of our life.

In our information age with multiple channels on television, the Internet and an abundance of books, CDs, and DVDs it is easy to get access to people teaching something about the Bible.  But we have to be careful to see if what we hear is really in agreement with what the Bible actually says or we could end up having our faith in God overthrown as Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 2:18.  Be sure that what you are hearing is really based on God's Word so that you will not only be approved by God for yourself but you will also be a light to those around you.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Trust God To Guide Your Steps

"A man's steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way?"
Proverbs 20:24 (NKJV)

No one likes being uncertain about what to do next.  It can be very frustrating to be in that place where you have questions about what to do, especially when you feel pressured to do something, but you don't know what to do.  One good rule to follow is if you don't know, you don't go.  Making a move before we really know whether or not we should do it is never a good idea.  We need to understand that if God has not told us anything yet then we don't need to know anything yet.  God has given us His Word and we can always go to it and follow what we see there, that is always our starting point.
We must realize that God is a good God who loves us even more than we know.  While some people believe that God is mysterious and He is somehow aloof and does not really care about us, the reality is that He is far wiser and more intelligent than we are and there are times we really don't need to know some of the things we think we need to know.  When the time is right God will make clear to us what we need to know, what we need to do, and how we need to do it.  God knows our life and the path we are taking and even if we don't understand what is going on He does.
What can we do when we are in the place of wanting to take a step but we don't know what step to take?  If God is not giving us any specific direction then we should keep doing the basic things that we do know to do.  Stay with the general will of God while you are waiting for steps in the specific will of God.  Keep your mind focused on what you do know to do and not on the questions you don't have the answers to.  Spend time reading and studying God's Word and talking to God in prayer.  Doing all of these things will keep you in the right position so that when you do need to know what God wants to tell you, you will be ready to receive it and move forward with the plan of God.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Do You Say About Yourself?

"And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself? He said: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord,"' as the prophet Isaiah said.""
John 1:21-23 (NKJV)

John the Baptist was a man sent by God to help prepare the way for Jesus.  When John the Baptist started his ministry there was some natural curiosity about him; who is this man and why is he doing what is he doing?  People heard John speak and they saw what he did but they wanted a direct answer from the man himself.  The religious leaders of the day sent a group to John to ask him, "Who are you, what do you say about yourself?"  This is a good question for us today as well.

When John the Baptist gave the answer about who he was, notice what he did not say.  John did not talk about his family background, his financial status, his level of education, or his life experiences.  When John responded to the question about who he was, John focused on what he was doing for God.  John had the emphasis in the right place; he realized that his relationship with God and what he did in his life for God was the most important thing.  It is also interesting to see that John connected what he was doing with something from the Bible; it is good to find our identity and purpose from God and His Word.

What you say about yourself is very important and it identifies who you are.  What others say about you and what others think about you does not matter as much as what you say and think about yourself.  Our question today is the same question that was asked of John the Baptist, who are you and what do you say about yourself?  The devil will try to stir up problems in our life and confront us with questions about our identity of who we are and what we are doing.  Knowing the answer to these questions will help us succeed in life; we need to know who we are in Christ.

Friday, April 12, 2013

With God, It’s Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
2 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

When I was in high school I used to compete in various running events.  There were always three parts to the race, the start, the actual race, and the finish.  When they lined everyone up at the start of the race, some people were in better positions than others but I don't remember anyone ever crying because of where they started.  Even during the race itself, someone might not have been in the best position in the middle of the race but that did not really matter either, what mattered is where you finished the race.

The Apostle Paul did not start out well; he was actually fighting against God's plan and the spread of the Gospel before he became a Christian.  When he wrote his second letter to Timothy, Paul knew that the end of his physical life was near.  Did Paul talk about his regrets from the past and all of the mistakes he had made?  Did Paul say that he wished he would have been born into a better situation or that he could not succeed because he did not have some advantages that others had in life?  No, Paul talked about how he had finished the race God had given him to run, even though he did not start out in the best position.

No one starts out in a perfect situation with every advantage in life; no one has a problem free existence.  We should not look back at our past but instead realize that no matter where we start, or even where we are now, we can finish strong.  We may have come from a bad family or a bad economic situation, but we don't have to stay there.  It does not matter where you were born, what matters is that you were born again and that you have a loving heavenly Father who wants to help you.  Do like Paul did and fight the good fight of faith and overcome all of the obstacles in your path so that one day you too can say that you have finished the race God gave you to run.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Are You Like The Bereans Or The Athenians?

"Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or hear some new thing."
Acts 17:10, 11, 21 (NKJV)

In Acts 17 there is a story about two groups of people, the Bereans and the Athenians.  Both groups had the opportunity to hear the teachings of the Apostle Paul.  The thing is that each group seemed to have a different way of doing things and I think that both groups are similar to what we see with Christians today.  One group, the Bereans, received the word with all readiness and searched the Scriptures to see if what they heard was accurate.  The other group, the Athenians, spent all their time either telling or hearing about something new.

It is a sad but true statement that many Christians are more like the Athenians than the Bereans.  So often Christians are more interested in hearing and telling about some "new" thing than they are about searching the Scriptures daily to see if what they hear is true.  It is interesting to see that the people who were diligent to search the Scriptures to check the validity of what they were hearing were the same people that the Bible describes as being ready to receive the Word of God.  It would seem that the more you are focused on God's Word the more ready you are to receive what it has to say.

If all we do is look for what is "new" we will get into trouble.  Our goal is not intellectual stimulation but spiritual growth through the truth of God's Word.  We may hear some things that are new to us but if they are right and true we will find the basis for these "new" things in the written Word of God.  Don't just go after whatever seems to be new and exciting.  Be like the Bereans and make sure to check up on what you are hearing, is it really teaching and truth from the Bible or not?  If we keep ourselves firmly grounded in the Word of God we will stay stable and steady in an ever changing world of "new" ideas.

Friday, March 29, 2013

What's So Good About Good Friday?

"And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center."
John 19:17, 18 (NKJV)

Today is known as Good Friday, it is the day Christians celebrate as the day Jesus died on the cross.  The question is, why is Good Friday so good?  Looking at the day and the things Jesus experienced it was not a good day for Him, being executed is not something that a person would be very happy about.  But the Bible does tell us that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2); Jesus understood His place as the sacrifice for the sin of mankind but it was still not something He did because it was such a great experience for Him.

Good Friday was not a good day for the devil.  The crucifixion of Jesus meant the defeat of the devil and the end of his dominion over mankind through sin.  The devil must have thought that he had won the ultimate victory when Jesus was crucified.  But it turned out to be the worst day of all for the kingdom of darkness because through His death and resurrection Jesus triumphed over the devil and the principalities and powers of darkness (Colossians 2:14, 15).  Jesus died on the cross and took our place so we would not be ruled by the devil and sin but so we could reign in life (Romans 5:17).

If Good Friday was not a good day for Jesus and especially for the devil, what about us?  What do the events we celebrate on Good Friday mean for us?  Good Friday is a great day for us because it means that the price for sin has been paid!  We had a debt of sin we could not pay but Jesus died in our place.  Good Friday is a day that we can rejoice because it was not the end of Jesus but just the beginning of His work for us that brings us into a right relationship with God through the blood of Jesus.  Good Friday is a good day for us because it is all about our redemption and freedom from sin and all of it effects.  So when you think about Good Friday, realize that it is a day of liberty for us that we can celebrate all year long!

Friday, March 22, 2013

God Is A Good God

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

If you took a survey and asked people who God is and what He is like you would probably get many different answers, depending on who you asked.  Some people have a view of God that He is an old man with a long white beard just passively sitting up in heaven barely aware of what is happening on the earth.  Some people would probably tell you that God is powerful and just and ready to punish people for their sin.  But what is God really like?  The best place to find out what God is like is from the Bible, God's Word.

God is a good God, plain and simple.  While this seems to be a concept that should be easy to understand many people do not really know that God is a good God.  Often people have had a negative experience with organized religion of some kind or a strict authority figure in their life and they transfer that experience into their understanding of who God is.  Then, because of this wrong belief these people have difficulty expecting God to do anything good for them or even approaching God at all.  God provided a way through Jesus for us to have a relationship with Him, not based on our goodness but on His.

If we want to have a right relationship with God then we have to have a proper understanding of who God really is.  If we don't know about how good God is we can end up trying to earn His favor, His help and His blessings; we need to get to know God for who He really is.  We can't base our understanding of God on our past experience or what others might say; we can only learn who God is by looking into His Word.  God is a loving heavenly Father who wants to do good for His children, once you understand that it is easier to get to know Him, receive from Him and do His will.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Back To The Basics

"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits."
Hebrews 6:1-3 (NKJV)

The Bible is a pretty big book; there are 66 books contained in one volume divided between the Old and New Testaments.  But although the Bible is so big there are several main themes we can see repeated over and over again, these could be called the major Bible doctrines or even Bible basics.  If we want to do well in life and have success we need to have a good foundation and that requires learning the Bible basics.  Too many believers do not know and understand the basics of the Bible enough that they are successful in their own lives and effective in teaching and helping others.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews points out in chapter five that the people being written to should have already been teaching others, but they still needed someone to teach them the "first principles" again.  Then in chapter six we see a list of six "elementary principles" of Christ, these could be called Bible basics.  The idea given here is that if you don't know the basics you can't go any further, this is an area of difficulty for some Christians.  Too often Christians chase every new or seemingly exciting doctrine and these really just lead them away from the Bible basics.  The solution for many Christians is that they need to get back to the basics of the Bible.

As we learn and get a good understanding of the basic Bible doctrines we can continue to move on to what is called "perfection" in Hebrews six.  That word does not mean being flawless but being complete and mature.  If we don't understand the basics we will stay where we are spiritually until we do learn them.  This could be compared to studying a subject in school, you don't go on into advanced mathematics until you really know and understand the basics of math.  Until we know the Bible basics we will be limited in the amount God can use us due to our spiritual immaturity.  Let's build ourselves up on the Bible basics and go on with God to spiritual maturity and maximum spiritual effectiveness.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Trust In The Lord

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."
Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)

People put their trust in many things but the Bible tells us that we should put our trust in God.  What exactly does it mean to trust God?  The word trust here in Psalm 18 means, "to flee for protection".  In Proverbs 3:5 it also tells us to trust in the Lord and the Hebrew word used there that is translated as trust means "to run quickly for refuge".  What this shows us is that God is the One we always need to turn to in every situation; we can be confident that God will help us in our time of need.

However, trusting in God is not something that we automatically do just because we are Christians.  When a problem comes up do we talk to God about it and see what His Word says or do we talk to our friends to see what they have to say?  Do we put our trust in God to meet our needs or do we trust in our job and our own ability?  What do we do when we are put under pressure, who do we turn to and where do we go to first?  The answer to that shows us where we place our trust and what we have confidence in.

What do we do if we find ourselves relying on something or someone else when we should rely on God?  The answer is simple; we need to get better acquainted with God, we only trust someone that we really know.  We need to get to know God better through His Word and by spending time with Him in prayer.  As we continue to develop our relationship with God our trust in God will grow.  Then when a problem comes into our life we will go to God to get our answer and His plan about what to do.  Trust in God; He is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, and our strength!

Friday, March 1, 2013

What Are You Building?

"And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans. So he was seven years in building it. But Solomon took thirteen years to build his own house ..."
1 Kings 6:38, 7:1 (NKJV)

In the Old Testament we read how Solomon built a temple for God; it took Solomon seven years to build the temple.  The temple Solomon built was magnificent and I am sure it was quite a sight to see.  The thing to notice is that Solomon spent twice as much time building his own house as he did building God's house.  It was certainly not wrong for Solomon to build his own house but what does it say about Solomon in that he spent twice as much time building his own house as he did building the temple?  It seems like Solomon's priorities were out of balance.

Solomon built the temple based on the plan that he had.  We need to have a plan for our life but we don't want to have a plan that puts twice as much emphasis on our own life as it does on what God has planned for us to do.  We need to ask ourselves, what are we building, what is it that we are investing ourselves and our money in, and does what we are doing go more towards building our own life or are we helping to build the Kingdom of God?  By asking these kinds of questions and taking an honest look at our life we can see what we are really focusing on.

It is easy to get wrapped up in what is happening in our own life and to neglect what God has planned for us.  Make no mistake about it, God wants to bless us and give us good things.  But should we really spend twice as much time "building our own house" and focusing on our own plans as we spend following God and doing His will?  Nothing will satisfy us like doing the will of God and following His plan.  If we keep our eyes first of all on God and what He is directing us to do we will fulfill God's will for our life and also find out that it is easier for us to accomplish our own personal goals.