Oh, how time flies! I can remember being a teenager, then later the adult years came and so did all the responsibilities and challenges.
The years go by quickly! But the most important thing is not how old we've become but what we've done. Done, you say? Yes, how have you and I lived out the years God has so graciously given to us?
From the time we become followers of Christ, God holds us responsible for how we are living out our Christian lives. We must give an account for our words, our deeds, our time, talents, and how they have been used and spent (at the judgement seat of Christ Matt. 12:36, Rom. 14:12). He has given us a blueprint to follow with many promises that we can count on as well as many blessings He has for us. How many trials have we endured while trusting God through them? Have we lived up to the title we've been given as 'Peculiar People' (showing by our lifestyle that we belong exclusively to God. 1 Peter 2:9)? Have we separated ourselves from the world and its ideology, and practices? Are we faithfully persevering, and practicing daily obedience?
Since we realize that time waits for no one, and with each passing day we're aging, we ought to assess our lives and take a good honest look at where we are, spiritually speaking. From the time that you accepted Christ as your personal Savior, how far have you come in the race? Are you where you should be? Are you lagging behind? We lag behind spiritually when we give ourselves excuses for not being obedient to God like repeating the same sins over and over again asking for forgiveness without forsaking them. Remember, an excuse is a high-class lie.
God is expecting His children to grow and fulfill their God-given purpose on the earth. The years fly by quickly and you don't want to wake up one day at an age and physical state where you can no longer serve the Lord. You don't want to be that person who has spent their years circling the same bottom of the mountain for years with nothing to show for it. You don't want to wake up one day only to realize that you wasted your youth, and middle-aged years of vigor and strength on everything but honoring God.
May the Lord help you and I to make steady and consistent progress in our daily Christian lives.
"Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:4
In the above verse, God's Word starts by telling us that He is our comforter in everything we go through; then He tells us that as a result, we can be a comfort and blessing to others. Now here's the part of the verse that we should really pay close attention to. God says where that comfort for others should come from; the comfort we received from God.
It's been troubling me for a long while now that many believers share posts online that are inspired and written by others. Who are the others who have written them? We don't know unless they sign their names to the bottom of it. I've read many and receive many, However, they are not inspired or are they the words of the one who is trying to encourage me. They are someone else's words for whatever they have experienced. I'm not saying that one cannot be encouraged by them from time to time, but what I am saying is that God has made it clear that the words of encouragement, comfort and support should be out of one's own personal experience and interaction with the Lord.
What has God done for you lately? Don't you want to shout it from the mountain top? Don't you want to share it with others? Don't you want others to draw near to God and come into experiencing Him on a more intimate level? In order for that to happen we must share what the Lord God has done for us when we were going through trials, afflictions, triumphs and blessing. It must come straight from our mouth.
If God has done anything for you, please don't bypass sharing voice to voice or face to face with persons who are in trials of afflictions and who are experiencing challenges. They need to hear from you so they can be comforted and encouraged to keep pressing on and to keep trusting the Lord God.
So, the next time you are tempted to go online and share a post that someone else wrote, resist the temptation by simply sharing in your own words. Better yet, pick up the phone and call the person voice to voice. That is the most effective way to comfort and encourage another.
At every stage in our lives there are decisions to be made. Some will be tough and challenging while others will be no brainers, as far as decisions are concerned. But what about the ones that hit closer to home; decisions that sever ties, decisions to leave a workplace, or decisions that require us changing something about ourselves?
It will never be easy to make different choices, but it will more than likely be necessary. It's never easy to cut ties with certain individuals, or to walk away from friendships that we have poured into. If the relationship hasn't helped us to grow, to be stimulated, or to be better persons, we will need to part ties.
We are told in the Word of God, " Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV) Relationships are needed; however, we want the ones that are inspiring us to grow spiritually, the ones that encourage us in general and the ones that we simply enjoy for healthy reasons. Sometimes we must know when to let go and trust God to bring the right relationships into our lives.
God is the best person to help in deciding whether or not to stay at the job we're at, or to look for another. He knows where we can be the most effective and valuable to a workplace and its atmosphere. He also has in mind for us to be a light in the midst of darkness.
There are decisions to be made when it comes to ourselves and the inner self so to speak. We are all a work in progress and will continue to be until the day God calls us home or raptures us up. Nevertheless, there are things right here and now that we need to change. Sitting at the feet of Jesus daily helps us to look into that mirror and see where we line up with what pleases God. It is there that He reveals or reminds us of the things we should put on and put off. How are we doing so far? We are early into the New Year and should be working on what we need to start and stop doing.
Are we there yet? Time is running out. We don't have as much time as we think. So, let us examine our lives closely with a fine-tooth comb and do the excavation work that it calls for so that we can be the most effective as we serve the Lord God!
So, we've come to the end of another year and quickly at that. How did we do? Did we accomplish all of the things we said we would? Did we slack off a bit due to many distractions and the unexpected?
There will always be something waiting in the winds to compete with our attention. That's just life. It is also what Satan is counting on. We have to ask ourselves this question; "Why didn't we reach our goal? Why didn't we do all the stuff we set out to do? Why did we lose momentum? Why did we fail?"
We will get the same result going into the New Year if we don't have answers for those questions. Perhaps we struggled with discipline. The type of discipline that meant that we needed to shut the T.V. off and get to it. The kind of discipline that required putting that cell phone down and away for a while so that we could concentrate and focus on the task at hand. The discipline of going on a social diet from social media, and friends.
Often, when we are not sitting at the Lord's feet each morning, we are bound to fail in anything we're trying to do. If we don't keep the Lord first and foremost, we will undoubtedly meet with all sorts of obstacles and distractions. Attending a church isn't enough, by far. Without that one-on-one personal relationship that involves reading and praying, we fall off and lose our way.
God has spared your life and my life up to this point. Let's mean business and get to the care and management of our spiritual lives. It starts now. Stop whatever you're doing right this minute and open your bible and sit quietly in the presence of the Lord. Prepare your heart to hear what He wants to say to you. After you do that, make some time for prayer. Have a heart to heart with God and end this year in tune with His Holy Spirit and wake up tomorrow and repeat the process.
May our Lord keep you and may you trust Him a little more than you did in the past 12 months.
"Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8
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!