We are nearing the end of another year. It has gotten here faster than the year before it. The past 11 months, for some, have been filled with many ups and downs. Some of us may have had our faith challenged in ways like never before. There are those in the body of Christ who have suffered illnesses and health setbacks. That is really tough to deal with. While others are still waiting for the Lord to answer much needed prayer requests.
In having my own faith struggles I've had to be honest with myself and the Lord about how I handled each situation He sent my way. And so, I must take an assessment of my actions, behaviors, speech and thoughts.
How did you do this year, so far? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. Did I sit in God's presence more this year than last year?
2. Have I prayed more often over the past months?
3. Am I praying for those who caused me harm by way of offences, evil acts, or ill treatment?
4. Have I been handling challenges and trials by casting them on the Lord or am I still trying to deal with them on my own?
5. Did I look for opportunities to share the Lord with others by way of personal testimony, witnessing, or speaking of the ways He's worked in my life?
6. Did I find myself reading and meditating on His Word a little more this year?
7. Who have I mentored spiritually in the past 12 months?
8. How many times this year have I used my spiritual gift?
9. God's been trying to correct certain things in my life; how well did I do with controlling my tongue, negative behavior, gossiping, or simply doing what is right?
10. Have I judged my own actions and behavior more than judging others the past year?
The tomb is where dead bodies lay. It's a place where decay takes place. There is no life, no awareness or activity there.
When we come to Christ, via salvation, it's expected that change has taken place in our hearts which should lead to a change also in our lives. There's a difference that should be seen and those who knew us before conversion now see that we have changed.
Have we really left the tomb? Have we exchanged our grave clothes for righteousness? Are people seeing a radical change in our lives? Are we being rejected, scorned and disowned by some?
Leaving the tomb means that we will encounter all sorts of rejection, suffering, mocking and the like. Leaving the tomb causes us to lose friends and be disliked. It's not easy to endure such treatment, but we should be encouraged and rejoice if we're suffering for Christ.
Leaving the tomb also means that we no longer engage in the same sinful behaviors as in the past. We have chosen to live in ways that please God. We exchange lying lips for what is truth. Our mouth speaks words of encouragement, words to lift the fallen and words that bring healing. Since we have left the tomb, we no longer participate in what is evil for we now value what God values. We show love in exchange.
Have you left the tomb? It's a question to ask yourself. Evaluate your actions and behavior and really take an honest assessment of where you're at as a Christian. Don't justify or give excuses for your behavior, simply address what needs addressing and make the necessary changes.
"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, you are a new person and a different person.
We mourn over the losses we've suffered over the years, and rightfully so.
The scars they've left are indeed painful, but God is the restorer of years. He can buy back time with joy provided we don't take too long in unburdening our hearts to Him.
Joseph wept seven times. His weeping started the day he saw his brothers and it continued until after his father's death. At different periods he allowed himself to feel what the situation brought. He didn't push it aside as if he was too macho or strong to cry. He cried and at times he cried so hard and so much that he needed to be alone.
Some wait too long to make their peace with tragedy and pain in their lives. Some have waited to address these matters on their death beds when quality of life has gone leaving them no chance for reconciliation and peace.
Here are the times Joseph cried:
1. Genesis 42:24
2. Genesis 43:30
3. Genesis 45:2
4. Genesis 45:14
5. Genesis 46:29
6. Genesis 50:1
7. Genesis 50:17
God had mercy on Jacob in that he got to have some wonderful years with Joseph under the best of circumstances. Jacob also had something to learn. He was a cunningly shrewd person in his earlier years. He stole his brother's birthright, he out-smarted Laban and became wealthy as a result and his sons took on the negative qualities by deceiving him into thinking that Joseph was dead. What a consequence of Jacob's doing by way of his own failure. Yet, God is merciful to Jacob. He got to see the fruitfulness and multiplying of his family over the span of 17 years in Egypt and how God's promise to Abraham was well on the way from 70 souls that came to Egypt to plus that at his death. He got a glimpse into the future and the promise.
Joseph's brothers, who did him wrong, realized their sin, confessed it and confronted what they had done in the past. this is what true repentance looks like. Actually, God made sure that they did by the situation that unfolded with Joseph. Sometimes, unfortunately, God has to step in and allow circumstances where we are forced to do what we otherwise wouldn't.
Joseph, himself, comes full circle with the ultimate purpose for his life. He now understands fully why God allowed all those horrible things to happen to him. No doubt, there was great spiritual growth that occurred, along with insight and wisdom as he acquired the grace to endure it all.
We must not drag our feet when it comes to confronting sin in our lives or any wrong we have done to others. Christians are to confess their faults, sin or wrongs to each other that there might be healing while there is still time. As we see in this story, God sleeps on nothing. He will expose sin and that among His own children. He saw to it that Joseph's brethren are dealt with. He refused to let the situation remain hidden. He brings justice for Joseph in the end.
"Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more." Genesis 37:5-11 (NIV)
"So, when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground."
"Then he remembered his dreams about them." Genesis 42:1-9 (NIV)
Every time I read the story of Joseph; I see something different. That's the beauty of God's Word.
Joseph shared his dreams, as a young man, with his brethren and with his father and they took offence to it because he was yet young. It wasn't until he became Governor of Egypt that those dreams would materialize. In between the pit and the palace were horrific trials and challenges, hurt and pain with losses that were insurmountable, or so he thought.
Those years were filled with learning God's way of doing things and waiting and enduring injustices. It takes years for us to be fitted properly to serve in our calling.
There is no palace without a pit! It takes years before we gain a measure of understanding about the calling God has placed upon our lives. Some of us are called to suffer, while some are called to die for the faith.
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).
There is no doubt about it. However, we won't suffer in vain. God will get all the glory and praise and we will be blessed! God will give the enablement (His grace) to handle every situation He sends our way. At a later time, when you and I get the opportunity to say anything on God's behalf, it will be authentic and real. It will have the experience behind it and our words will edify and build up the listener. That's powerful stuff!
The next time someone (saint or sinner) comes at you negatively to cut you down, remember, God is preparing you to take your place in the ministry work He's called you to do. It will take a strong back and a stiff upper lip to persevere in the worst of situations. Joseph is our example. Look at the sequence of events in his life. Look how things turned out for him! It was truly an uphill climb, step by step, but God was with him!
How do we stay spiritually focused in a world filled with distractions? John 10:10 tells us that "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (NIV).
Satan is counting on Christians being distracted and occupied with every and anything that takes their attention off of God and His things.
There is a plethora of entertainment available that dumbs down one's mind and heart as it engages in its morsels of enticements. Whether it's funny comedic stuff, sensual movies, or reality T.V., it does not feed the spiritual man. Then there's social media and all of its forms that can occupy one for hours at a time leaving them feeling either worse or with a need to covet and deceive others in their posts.
We must put the 'Blinkers' on. Blinkers are what they put on racehorses to limit their field of view (wide vision). This keeps them from being distracted, frightened and irritated. This helps them to see what is straight in front of them. You may see horses with blinkers on when they are carrying persons in the cart as they are driven around the city to tour the sights. There are cars all around them, buses and noisy vehicles with beeping horns that can easily distract the horse and cause it to be greatly disturbed. Blinkers help them to stay focused. We too must put on blinkers!
Distractions keep us from accomplishing what God has intended for us to do for Him. He has first dibs on our time and attention. If we are not careful, the years will go by, and we will have nothing to show for our journey here. God has given each of us a spiritual gift that we received upon salvation, and it is to be developed to its highest potential for effective ministry work. This takes focused dedication and sacrifice. The minister of God's Word that impacted me the most (as I listened to their preaching) required that servant to spend hours of time at the feet of the Lord. It meant that he or she sacrificed socializing (more than needed), entertainment and idle time in order to get a word from God that would minister to the hearts of His people. They knew how to come aside and be alone with God.
Although a horse can see 350 degrees around them, blinkers are necessary when it comes to their protection. If they are protected in certain environments, the people will be protected as well. If the horse gets out of control accidents happen and possible injuries and death could occur.
How is your field of vision? Is it reigned in? Are you accomplishing all of what God has given you to do? Are you serving the purpose for which you were placed in the body of Christ? Remember, Satan is counting on you being distracted. He's aiming at getting your attention away from God!
We must be like Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus for instruction. This should be our daily portion. This single act sets our focus on God as we start our day. We should engage in prayer throughout the day in order to address issues, problems and to keep our minds free of distractions. It is our responsibility to make efforts in these areas as believers. May the Lord help us to walk worthy of our calling thereby bringing Him the honor and glory.
How are you at sharing the spotlight? In Judges 8:1 we have a classic case of those who wanted the recognition for the victory alone. "Now the men of Ephraim said to him, "Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?" And they reprimanded him sharply. So, he (Gideon) said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that."
In the previous chapter, Gideon sent messengers to all of Ephraim to come and fight against the Midianites and they came and conquered greatly. The Midianites now are angry because Gideon didn't call them before the battle started. Gideon reminds them of their great victory stating that they were better than he in all they were able to accomplish. That response quieted their anger.
Some of us are like the people of Ephraim. They wanted all the glory and the praise. They wanted to be on top. They wanted all the recognition.
As Christians, we are all in this together. We are told in scripture that when one cries, we cry, when one rejoices, we rejoice (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our attitude should be, "One for all and all for one." There should be no competition among the Lord's people. The Christian life is not a competitive sport. We are to support one another, not condemn one another. If one of us are taken in a sin, those who are spiritual are to take up the matter privately with the individual that they may be restored to the Lord (Galatians 6:1-10). Notice it says, those who are spiritual, this doesn't apply to just anyone. The persons should be godly and faithful in their Christian walk. They should go in the attitude of humility recognizing that they themselves could sin because they are susceptible to fall as well.
Are you one for all and all for one? How can we tell if we are or not? Do you sorrow when a fellow believer is in trouble, in despair, sorrowful, depressed, weary and sad? Do you look to see how you can be that rainbow in their cloud? Do you stop and pray for them? Do you pick up the phone and call them from time to time? When they stop coming to church or disappear, do you go after them or do you feel, "Out of sight, out of mind?" Are you glad when they are no longer at your church fellowship? These questions and your honest answers determine the truth of what is in your heart and whether or not you are for your brother or sister. It also speaks to whether you love them or not.
The people of Ephraim had no legitimate reason to be upset with Gideon. Their reaction only proved that they were fleshly and selfish. God gave the victory to all of them in that battle. Why couldn't they share the spotlight? Why couldn't they rejoice along with Gideon at what the Lord God had done that day? Why couldn't they simply focus on God's almighty power and love for them, as His people, and relish the evidence of that?
In situations where your service and efforts go unnoticed, do you get upset and complain about it? If your name was left off of a program, or you were left out of a ministry effort and excluded, do you now fight for your right to be noticed and acknowledged or do you simply take the low place and leave it with the Lord? After all, God knows what you have done and what you mean to that ministry area. He knows everything you contribute to the body of Christ, and He keeps perfect record of it. No man can steal your crown! "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them" (Hebrews 6:10).
May the Lord help us to share in the victory of His people. May we be supportive and helpful to each other. May we respect what each person brings to the table and acknowledge the contribution of each believer as more valuable than ourselves. May we give honor where honor is due. May we rejoice together, cry together, and pray one for the other. May we each do our part in strengthening the bond of unity God has designed for His people and do nothing to break it apart. For when one Christian wins, we all win!
We all have one. We all have a story to tell that glorifies God as it speaks to His power and incredible grace manifested in our life!
I barely hear testimonies these days from believers. Why is that? We socialize, we gather on occasion, and we talk shop talk, and that's okay, but where are the testimonies of the Lord? The stories that testify of His power and might in our day to day lives and the answered prayers. The record of what He's done for us lately seems to be lagging far behind and relegated to the accounts we repeat from twenty years ago.
We are living in dangerous and difficult times that are filled with challenges and hard situations. Christians everywhere are being tested in ways like never before. I have the blessed privilege to read about the suffering and the blessings of Christians in faraway lands, and how they are remaining hopeful and trusting God in the midst of their loss. Some are incarcerated for being Christians while others have been killed for their faith, leaving behind their families and loved ones. Yet, the ones who remain are trusting in God regardless. It really makes me wonder about my own commitment to God.
We have been given a testimony the moment we accepted Christ as our personal Saviour. Our life up until that point is part of our testimony that we should never be ashamed of. People need to hear how the Lord God has delivered us and changed our life for the better.
Each of our testimonies are different and cannot be compared. Each of us are unique and God's purpose in saving us packs a punch that can impact the lives of those who hear it.
A believer's testimony is like Gold! It is valuable, needed and is powerful! Don't sit on it! Don't shrink from it! Don't be ashamed of your past! You have a story to tell so go and tell it every opportunity you get. Tell others how God has been good to you; let them know that God can do the same for them!
From our youth we have nurtured many things that have attached themselves to us sticking like glue. Some of the things we've nurtured were needed and necessary like for instance, bathing daily, eating and talking. Those are necessary habits that we are most comfortable doing and have established for many years.
Along the way we have also picked up bad habits. Those are the things that we participated in that bring no positive value to our lives; for instance, lying, gossiping, laziness and making excuses.
The longer we participate in either habit, the more difficult it will be to get rid of them. It has been said that "Good habits are hard to break and bad habits are hard to break." It is so true!
As Christians, we are exhorted in God's Word by instruction to be good, do good, and to obey the Lord God. The Word of God tells us what to put on (behavior wise) and what to put off (Ephesians 4:22-24). This verse speaks about stopping behavior that we had before we came to Christ and to put on the things that are associated with the new man, the regenerated man, the saved man with the Spirit of God who now indwells him. We need to employ the Lord's help in any area of our lives that lean towards bad habits. God expects us o make the effort to change all that we need to change in our life.
Bad habits are besetting sins. They are strongholds in our lives. They keep us from growing and making spiritual progress. They also hold us back naturally. These bad habits can impact work relationships, job performance and keep opportunities from coming our way.
A damaging bad habit is the habit of lying. When we're kids, we lie to keep from getting into trouble. When we're older and still are lying, we're now in the habit forming phase. When we are full grown adults and choose to lie, we have nurtured a bad habit and now it is ingrained within us to keep on lying. If a believer finds himself or herself in this predicament, they will be hard pressed to quit the habit.
Proverbs 28:13 tells us to confess and forsake our sin. "Whoever conceals their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them they will receive mercy." It's not enough to confess our sin, there must be a desire to stop doing them. If we don't forsake them, they will swallow us up and disqualify us from serving the Lord with a good and effective testimony. Others will see what our problem is and we will bear the shame that goes along with it.
Let us go before God with all sincerity to break any bad habits we have and lean hard on God for His power to help us to break them!
Criticism: Judge a person unfavorably, fault finding.
1 Thessalonians 5: 11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another."
Hebrews 10:24 says, "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds."
A critical spirit can be very damaging to others. A critical spirited person looks to find fault and never seems to show true support with encouragement. This is a malady among believers.
Godly criticism can come into play when there are legitimate signs and or acts of sinful behavior being displayed or ungodly words being used. There is a time and a place for it.
I have personally experienced critical spirited persons and over time it wore on me to the point where I learned to keep my distance. No matter how I tried on occasion to give the benefit of doubt, it would never fail, more criticism came. I couldn't help but think that the individual was masking an underlying problem.
Critical people tend to give unwanted, unsolicited advice. They seem to be blindly insensitive to others, unless you are a family member or person in their camp whom they approve of. Sometimes a lack of affirmation in a person's childhood causes them to later become a person who is critical of others.
The damage critical people do is far reaching. They eventually alienate others because they turn them off. Critical people have a lot of pride. How dare you walk into a room and don't speak to them first? "Did you not see me?", they exclaim.
I am mindful of what the scripture teaches on the subject of encouragement. Encouragement goes a long way. It can make a powerful difference in a person's life. We all need encouragement. Let us make an effort to encourage others be it little progress that a person is making or a big accomplishment. Let us encourage others when we see spiritual strides amidst great difficulties and challenges. Let us acknowledge those who are using the talent and skill God has given them.
"When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me."
Many have grown up with not only the absence of a father in the home, but no connection whatsoever to who their father is or was, while others had a dad at home, yet there wasn't an intimate relationship between he and them. There is dysfunction in each of these cases. There is an exception by way of the loss of a dad due to death. Many children have grieved the loss of their dad's untimely passing and it has thrown them into lots of troubles due to the anguish and pain they couldn't live with. This indeed is catastrophic to say the least.
There was a point in time where it was thought that if a male child had a good loving mother, he should be able to weather the storms of life and be a well-adjusted member of society. A boy can have the best mother on planet earth, but she can't teach him how to be a man. God has so designed the family structure in such a way where the male (father) plays a different, and much needed role than that of the woman. Having a good mother is not a substitute for that. Many men have had good mothers and they still ended up in prison, on drugs and repeating the cycle of dysfunction.
The definition of dysfunction is something that is unhealthy and abnormal in behavior and interaction. In the above verse David states for a fact that if his parents did forsake him (fail in their parental responsibility and duties), he knew that God would be there to pick up the slack psychologically, emotionally and mentally. He was sure of it.
Much of our world is reeling from dysfunction of some kind. The men are to be the leaders and the protectors of the family and when that fails, the family unit comes crashing down. We see the ill effects of this every day in society. Many incarcerated men didn't have healthy relationships with their father, for those who knew their father. Some had no male presence in the home and if there was someone, they may have been their abusers. There's no wonder that such a large population of men have taken up years of residency in the prison system.
What about the men who are not in jail, or strung out on drugs? How have they managed to survive it all? In my observations I've noticed that some men who bore a father wound promised themselves that if they had children they would do differently, and many have raised their children well. How was this possible? They disciplined themselves out of love to choose healthy ways of handling their children and not only their children, their spouses as well. This is commendable.
There is a population of men, that I noticed, who continued to struggle with childhood deficits all throughout their lives, their marriage and subsequently, in the raising of children. For those who had neither wife nor child, they continued to make decisions that were based out of a dysfunctional upbringing. They abused women who they dated, verbally and or physically, they lived double lives pretending to be someone else and they didn't have good interpersonal relationships.
What about the Christian male? Is he any different? Should he be different? From the time one accepts the Lord as their personal Savior, God affords them the right to joy and happiness with all the success to follow. Obedience to God's laws ensures each believer that they have the power to overcome every obstacle that comes their way. God promises us in His Word that He can and will make the difference in our lives. He is the restorer of years. I know this from personal experience. Life for me has been no crystal stair, believe me, but with God's help, grace and mercy, I've overcome! The Christian man, father, and husband has the opportunity to heal from his father wound by simply opening up to God about the hurt and pain he has endured with no fault of his own. Talking to God in prayer consistently about it eventually brings healing and the strength to change oneself. Before that can even happen, the man must admit that he is functioning at a deficit and that he is in need of help. He must recognize and confess that he isn't emotionally and psychologically healthy because of it.
God is tenderhearted and there for those who have had to live without their loving father due to death. God certainly understands all of what comes with that. God is there for those who have and are struggling with the woes and pain of it all.
It is sad and disturbing when I look around and see Christian males who are middle aged and older still being controlled by childhood deficits. It is seen in the way they handle everyone around them. It can be heard in their speech, their choices and decisions and in their attitudes when they don't get what they want. Some are verbally abusive and physically abusive while others show a disdain for women by relegating the woman to what they want them to be for them. Some will remain in marriages solely because of the perks and the standard of living they enjoy due to that woman's hard work. If a man chooses not to take advantage of all God has afforded, then nothing can be done for him. God does judge such behavior.
A Call for Mentors:
There is such a need for mentorship programs in our local churches. This need has been in existence for many years now.
There are churches that have been answering the call for mentors. If you are a male who has healed from your father wound, please consider mentoring a young man who is in need of a male figure. Go before God in prayer to send you the right youth for you to influence spiritually and emotionally in hopes to bring healing into their life.
God expects men to heal and come full circle. God has placed His Holy Spirit within you to enable you the strength to work through your issues and make you a better man, a man God can find His delight in. May you experience God's grace and help in this matter.