Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday's Challenge

Matthew 22:36-38, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the first and great commandment. (NKJV)
Most of us understand the ideas behind the use of the word challenge. I went to to ascertain the meaning of the word "challenge." It means to me that I am facing a situation that appears "difficult, possibly overwhelming, I have never attempted this required action at a prior time, or I do not think that I have the abilities or resources to fully accomplish the goal or decision that I am facing." I am sure that each of you could add your own definition and even add examples from your life that would further enhance your definition of the word. 

Jesus certainly spoke words of grace, peace, encouragement, healing, etc during His mission of life on planet Earth. But aren't we safe in saying that Jesus also spoke words of challenge that would require a commitment to follow, trust and obey His commands? I believe the scripture passage for the day expresses one of those challenges that Jesus offered.

Our Adult Bible Study group has been studying the video series by Kyle Idleman entitled Not a Fan. This series has taken us on a journey of a man that said He loved God to a man that loved God. Let us be honest with each other; Isn't it easier to say that we love God rather than actually loving God?" Words are cheap but actions can be costly. 

I have been around "church" all of my life. I have learned the songs, I have learned the verbage or language of Christians and I have gathered much information about God. But the real issue revolves around my ability to answer the question, "Do I truly love God", with more than just a resounding YES. My daily life and my daily actions are speaking LOUDER than my words. I must be careful and not allow my words to be so "loud" that I think that they can hide my actions. 

I must choose to love God with every part of my life and not just the part that has somewhat an understanding of the "church thing." I can not afford to grow comfortable with just knowing about God; I must know God if I am going to be identified as a son of God. 

Do we (I) love God do we (I) just love knowing about God?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday's Thoughts

Mark 8:36, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

This passage of scripture can be found neatly tucked in the passage in which Jesus calls each of us to take up our cross and follow Him. He teaches that this decision is a personal one and that no one can make that decision for you or for me. This eternal decision is a personal choice in which I choose to step out of my old life into the new life that is revealed in a relationship with Jesus Christ. I am thankful that I chose to lay aside all of the hindrances of life and make the decision to follow Christ. I am thankful that God continues to provide the grace and mercy that I need in my journey of life.

Each of us have faced and continue to face those attempts of satan to hinder the development of our relationship with Jesus Christ! Each of us could choose to find many reasons to avoid making the right decision regarding our relationship with Christ. Life throws a variety off "curve balls" our way that we could use to opt out of our relationship with God or at least postpone our decision until our life is "better." But in reality we know that day will never fully come. There is no such thing as a "perfect moment" for us to chose to follow Christ. The daily challenges, struggles, trials, etc. of life will always make sure that there is "something happening" either in us, to us or with us that provides us an excuse for postponing our decision. Let me hasten to add that these "moments of excuse making" can be present in the lives of believers as well as non-believers. 

We live in a time in which people want to avoid taking personal responsibility. Life provides us enough ammunition that we can always point at others who have created an environment in which I can not chose to serve God. I was raised in a family of six siblings. Trust me I understand the ease of excuse making. It was always "finger pointing" in the Willingham family when it was time for our Mom or Dad to exercise the use of discipline or correction to us. In a family of six children there were plenty of fingers pointing at someone else but it still did not change the need of taking responsibility for our individual failures or mis-steps. 

Society is producing a culture in which this spirit of "finger pointing" is even being used when we are called on to make a decision regarding Christ. I would serve Christ but... I would be faithful but... I can't serve God because... I want to serve God but... I know that I need to pray and read the Bible but... Each of us need to look at the words of Jesus in Mark 8:34-38 once more before we make our decisions regarding the development of our relationship with Christ. There will always be an excuse waiting in the wings to interfere in our relationship with Christ but the reward of eternal life will surely be worth each good decision that we make concerning our walk with Christ. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday's Inspiration

I was awakened from a sound sleep several times last night. Each time that I was awakened the words of of an old hymn was in my heart and in my mind. The hymn was In Times Like These. I began to research the song this morning and I am presently listening to Mahalia Jackson sing that very song. Ruth Kaye Jones wrote the song and NameThatHymn.Com shares this following information. "Ruth Caye Jones was the wife of a minister and also the mother of five. While we constantly hear of wars and rumors of wars today, it's sometimes easy to forget that things were much worse in the dark days of World War II. During World War II, over 400,000 young US soldiers lost their lives. And that number itself was just a small part of the 78 million people who died worldwide. It was during this time that Mother Jones, as she came to be known, reflected on the words of 2 Timothy 3:1, took a small notepad from her apron pocket, and jotted down the words and music to "In Times Like These", exactly as we sing them today."

I am convinced that each of us understand that we are facing unique, challenging, and very disturbing times. Our world is full of chaotic situations in which there seems to be no easy solution to the problems. We are facing the threat of terrorism in which it is even difficult to identify the enemy. We have a name for the enemy but no clearly defined process of identifying the enemy. One news report said the enemy is operating in over 30 countries of the world. 

I am only referencing one type of conflict in these previous sentences. Yet, we realize that there are other situations even in America that are very concerning to each of us. I will not take the time to identify all of the "spiritual enemies" that we are facing. They are numerous and they are entrenched in the present day culture. Where are we going to turn? Where are we going to look? In whom or what will we place our trust? Who will we follow as we navigate these challenging waters in the 21st Century?

I truly believe the words of this song will serve to point each of us in the right direction today. Will we take the time to turn away from the "gods of this world" and turn to the TRUE AND LIVING GOD? Will Your (My) Anchor Hold Today? Are we secure and fully confident in our relationship with Jesus Christ?

In Times Like These

In times like these you need a Savior,
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He's the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

In times like these you need the Bible,
In times like these, O be not idle;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He's the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

In times like these I have a Savior,
In times like these I have an anchor;
I'm very sure, I'm very sure
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He's the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Spiritual Identity

I would like to take a moment of your time and continue the blog post that I began on Tuesday. I am truly thankful that God chooses to reveal Himself through His Word and through the obedience of those servants who boldly and victoriously declare His Word. There are those time of interaction with God that the "revelations" of God are mere moments in which God reminds us of principles that we knew but had packed them away in the storage bins of our minds! I will confess that one of those "unpacking" moments came this past Sunday night as a Pastor/Missionary from Israel stood to declare the Word of the Lord from Philippians 3.

The New River congregation offers our support to Pastor Martin and his family in their outreach efforts in Israel. God is truly opening doors for them as they seek to establish churches in various areas of that country. God is connecting them with individuals who are truly seeking to know the true identity of the Messiah whom we know to be Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I would ask that you join with us in prayer as we cover this Mission effort in Israel.

Pastor Martin felt led to share with our congregation from Philippians. There were many wonderful "nuggets of truth" declared during his message but I chose to focus on the point that the Spirit strongly deposited in my spirit. As a matter of fact, I was challenged as well as convicted as Pastor Martin spoke about our "spiritual identity." He took the scriptures and showed us the life of Paul prior to his conversion as well as the life of Paul after his conversion. Many of us will remember the initial change that came into our lives as we invited Christ into our hearts as Savior as well as Lord. We quickly were identified as Christians which signified that we had made the decision to follow Jesus Christ as His disciple.

Our identity needs to be defined in our relationship with Christ and not any of the other accomplishments or accolades that we have "earned' in our lives. We were unable to earn our salvation; it was a gift that God provided for "whosoever would believe." Paul enumerated all of the accomplishments or accolades that he could boast or brag about. He chose to remind us of his "spiritual lineage" and his ancestors. He even boasted of his passion as a Pharisee BUT HE WAS WILLING TO RELINQUISH ALL OF THAT TO KNOW JESUS!! I encourage you to pay close attention to verse 8 of Philippians 3.

Paul was willing to lay aside his previous identity to claim his new identity in Christ Jesus, his Savior! I will let the Apostle Paul speak for himself. Take a few moments and read the full discourse of Paul in Philippians 3.

Philippians 3:7-11, But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.(NKJV) (Emphasis Added)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tuesday's Thoughts

I would like to take a few of your moments and reflect on this past weekend. This post will not revolve around any of my personal activities as intriguing and daring as they may be to you. LOL 

No, my words will revolve around my interaction with the Holy Spirit in two separate encounters with God during a corporate worship setting on this past Sunday.

Sunday as many of you may know was Pentecost Sunday. This day reminds us of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the 1st Century church. Let me add that I believe that the Holy Spirit is still being poured out upon the present day church. The Spirit dealt with my heart as I was sharing the Word of God during the message on Sunday morning. Let me preface the following words with this disclaimer. I grew up in a "Pentecostal" environment for which I am very grateful. 

I was taught to believe in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. But I was reminded of a principle that I may have overlooked in my formative years of my walk with Christ within my spiritual environment. I as well as many others were either taught or we just naturally gravitated to being attracted by and to the "powerful demonstrations" of the Spirit. There is nothing wrong with this facet of Pentecostalism in my view BUT is it possible that we missed out on fully discovering the TRANSFORMATIONAL MINISTRY of the Holy Spirit? I am not just referencing the initial process of transformation but the continuing process of transformation. Could this be the process that had captured the attention of the Apostle Paul (Take a moment and review the life of Saul who was transformed into Paul.)? Was it the transformational work of the Spirit at work in his life that led him to declare "O, that I am know Him... as he is moving toward the end of his life? I feel led to challenge each of us to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us day by day as we continue to draw closer to God. 

PS I will share about the second encounter during a future post. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Divine Guidance

Psalm 32:8-9, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.(NKJV)

The previous two posts have focused on the need for each of us to be willing to persevere in the development of our relationship with Christ. We can not afford to give up when the challenges of life arise against us. We must be willing to walk with God in faith believing but living by faith will require me to look to God for His guidance and direction. We must resist the temptation to come under the influence of an attitude of being a "spiritual know it all." We must lean on our Savior for guidance each and every moment of our lives. I believe that God desires to order our path and direct our steps if we will be willing to follow His guidance!!

A Pastor shared this insight into a picture that hangs in his office. “Hanging on my office wall is a print that I’ve had for nearly 60 years. It shows the Lord Jesus standing behind a young man whose eyes are focused in the direction that the Master is pointing. Jesus’ hand is on the man’s shoulder, and I imagine He is saying, “This is the way we’re going. I will get you to the destination.” Although the road will be marked with joy and suffering, the Lord will lead His followers all the way to their eternal home.

Each of us has reached those points in our life in which we admitted that we were ill-equipped to go through life without the guidance and direction of God. Our all-knowing God created us with a need for His guidance. In our own strength, knowledge, and reasoning power, we are simply not able to figure out how to make the wisest decisions. But the Lord’s assuring hand can lead us down right paths so that can make good choices. Our hearts must learn to trust in and lean on God for the correct guidance in our journey of life.

We must be willing to place our confidence in God and His direction for our lives. That decision to follow will require the release of our faith. Fear will seek to interfere in our faith but the continuing development of our faith will lead us to trust in God even in the midst of the difficulties of life!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Perseverance, Part 2

There is a tactic that the enemy uses against all of us in some manner, shape or form. It may not draw as much attention as some of the other tactics of satan but it can be very effective in hindering the effectiveness of our relationship with Christ if we succumb to its pressures. This tactic or strategy may be identified through the use of many subtitles but I will simply call it "discouragement." I can almost see the readers of this blog nodding their heads in agreement when they remember the times that satan has used this tactic against them. I will be the first of many to say AMEN!!

The enemy seeks to discourage us in such a manner that he causes us to doubt our effectiveness. Do you realize how impactful your life can be? Don't be deceived by Satan's lie that your suffering, your service to others or your obedience will amount to nothing. The enemy does his best to limit our faith concerning our service to Him and our work in His Kingdom. Here's the truth: Your faithfulness to God never goes to waste--it's making an eternal difference in someone's life, whether you know it or not. Much of what each of us do is "behind the scenes" and out of the sight of man but always in the sight of God. But isn't that type of service the one that brings the  most satisfaction and joy into our lives? 

Let me remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia.

Galatians 6:7-10, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.(NKJV)

I encourage you to persevere in your desire to serve others. The full results of your efforts are still being recorded in Heaven. The harvest is not complete as of yet!!