"Go and make disciples…and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matt 28:19-20)

Encouragement

Your strength, or His?

man alone

Many men eventually burn out from trying to live the Christian life out of their own efforts and in their own strength. Guys, if you are depending on your own strength to live as godly men, you will soon (if you have not already!) find yourself drained, defeated, hopeless, and disappointed.

Jesus promised His followers that the Holy Spirit would fill them and give them power to do all that was asked of them. That’s right. God did not design men to “go it alone!” From the beginning, we were designed to draw on the power of God (The Holy Spirit dwelling within us) to complete the journey before us. You, nor I, were ever meant to make that journey alone. Keep in step with the Holy Spirit, follow His lead, and you will have the strength and power you need to be the Authentic Men that you are destined to be!

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

(Zechariah 4:6b ESV)

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Stop Riding Those Spiritual Coattails!

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They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

This statement does not only contain a proclamation of faith. It is “pregnant” [so to say] with an idea and a necessary step of all of our spiritual development as Christians. Let me explain. At first, when we are new believers we take much of what we now know of God on faith. We believe what our Bible teachers tell us and what our Preachers reveal in their sermons about the character and heart of God. That is wonderful, and it should be that way… …for new Christians.

The question we must confront and answer for ourselves is the heart of John 4:42; simply stated this way: “At what point have you stopped depending on others’ faith and started trusting in Christ for yourself?” We must, in our spiritual development, come to the point where our faith is just that — “OURS.” We must experience the goodness and faithfulness of God. We must also experience His chastisement, His rebuke that brings growth and molds our character ever more into the image of His Son. We need to open our eyes and see how He has been moving and continues to move in our lives. We must learn for ourselves that He is trustworthy, and that Romans 8:28 really IS true; no matter the circumstance. Without a concentrated, intentional effort on YOUR part, you will NOT have a faith of your own….you will, sadly, ride the coat tails of those brothers and sister who were brave enough to trudge ever onward and upward in Christ.

So today, my brothers, I call you to step off of whatever spiritual ”coattails” you are riding on, be uncomfortable, get your feet wet, and stand [on your own feet] for Christ. I promise there will be difficulties, trials, hardships and pain on this road…. But I also guarantee that the journey only gets sweeter and more fulfilling with every step you make with Christ. Follow Him. No matter where He leads. No matter the cost. The reward for doing so is absolutely immeasurable! Just ask David:

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)


Insignificant Obedience?

Cool weather, the briskness of morning, a chill in the air, fall is here; and with it a change in the seasons. At the changing of every season, I am reminded of how God’s creation, even after “the fall” functions much in the same way as it did when He first created it. Each year the leaves change, the nights grow longer and all that is green fades off to sleep until Spring. What if Creation did not obey the Creator? What if the world around us rebelled in much the same way we do. Imagine the chaos we would live in If it did [not that it could].

Genesis 8:22 says: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Creation will faithfully serve the Creator without question, without complaining, and without ceasing. Can you see the value of the obedience of Creation in the mundane, uninteresting, and common, every-day things? We depend on Creation doing “its job” without fail. We set our calendars, make our plans, plant our fields, and know when to harvest- all based on the seasons. Don’t you see just how much depends on being faithful in the “small things?” My pastor spoke recently about  how important this is! Imagine what history would have been like if David had disobeyed Jesse and refused to take that bread and cheese to his brothers in the camp-the very day that God had ordained and purposed for David to slay Goliath!  One small, seemingly insignificant act of obedience was the key to great victory and fulfillment of destiny in David’s life. What blessings are you forfeiting today? Who are you letting down today?  What God-ordained destiny are you forsaking today, because you will not obey, in the mundane?

And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams
.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [Proverbs 1:7a], to obey is better than sacrifice [1 Samuel 15:22b]; therefore, to know the Lord is to love the Lord; to love the Lord is to serve the Lord; to serve the Lord is to obey the Lord; to obey the Lord is Wisdom. Wisdom is the faithful, obedient application of all we know of God to the will of God, motivated by our love for Him.

“Jesus answered him, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

Get up! Get out there, and do those mundane, boring things God has called you to do!  Today’s battles and today’s service prepare us for tomorrow’s challenges and makes us ready to receive and fulfill our God-given, God-ordained destinies! 

 

Rise up, Men of God, and let’s be “All that we can be”  for the glory of God!

Bullet-proof

I was thinking the other day how cool it would be to be “bulletproof.” Not too long ago, another remake of the original “Superman” movie was released into the box offices across the nation. I’m not sure how successful the movie was considered to be overall, but according to a June 23, 2013 article I found online, it had already grossed $398.3 million, worldwide. Apparently, the world is very interested in a story about a man who fights for what is right, just and fair…and who just happens to be “bulletproof” as well.

Of course, it is impossible for us mere mortals to have bodies that are impenetrable to bullets, as the “Man of Steel” does, but there is good news still to be heard today. The God we serve is infinitely higher and greater, stronger, faster, wiser, and more powerful than all of our ideas of what a “Superman” would be. Jesus is the perfection of all that we hope for, for all that is just, right, and fair.

Sadly, however, the majority of the human race chooses to reject Jesus, in all His splendor, and chooses instead to believe in ideals and fiction that will never be. Humanity simply cannot rise above and become altruistic. Man cannot become better than he is now. It is not in our nature to do so. So many, so sadly, spend their entire lives pursuing that which will never be. Only God, His will, His plan, His blessings and a relationship with Him are real, worthwhile and beneficial to man.

While the ideal of the “Superman” as Hollywood presents it is not a reality, there really is a way for us to be “bulletproof.” This “secret” is contained in the pages of the Book of Isaiah:

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.”

So here it is, the way to be “bulletproof.” This is not a way for us to bounce bullets off our chest, but a way to be capable of dealing with and not being ultimately defeated by all the bad things that come into our lives. The verse does not say that we will not deal with adversity. It does not say that we will not have times that we are knocked down, attacked or even brutalized. What it does tell us is that we have the undying, unquenchable, unending hope that our God will “never leave us nor forsake us.” We may be struck down, but we will not be defeated. We will rise…again and again…. Much like the mythical creature the Phoenix, we will often rise out of the ashes of what the Enemy “meant for harm” and [if we allow God to forge us], we will become more than we were before. By His hand we can become more than we are, we can grow, we can increase, we can become….all that He has called us to be.

We may never fly, jump tall buildings in a single bound, be we can all be SUPER men (of God) because Christ is the perfection of manhood, our goal, the standard by which we compare ourselves. Through the hand of God at work in our lives, allowing and trusting Him to use our adversities and our pain and suffering to change us, we can become true “men of steel”, impervious to all the attacks that our enemy might hurl at us.

Like Isaiah says, it is the heritage [the inheritance and the God-given right] of the servants of the Lord to enjoy His protection, His deliverance, and His blessings. So, put on “the whole armor of God” as you leave this morning and let’s be to those around us the example of what God would consider to be a Super man!


To rant or not to rant…that is the question!

In the age we live in, we are surrounded by and inundated with various types of technology.   It seems as though almost everyone (under a certain age) is involved in social media, gadgets, smartphones, texting, status updates, and “tweeting” most everything that happens to them every day.  Along with this unbridled dispensation of personal experiences and thoughts comes many opinions and various points of view.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to have something to say nowadays.  My grandmother always told me that opinions are much like armpits:  “everyone has them, and sometimes they stink!”

I think we, as a society, we may have lost sight of the true meaning of our “freedom of speech.”  We should always stand for what is right, just and Biblically correct, and defend those things with all our might.  In, and of itself, there is nothing wrong with expressing how you feel, or sharing experiences.  However, just because we have the “right” to say whatever we want, doesn’t mean that we should say everything we think, or that we should always voice our opinion.  The problem is that many of us have completely forgotten how to “filter” these things and choose what should and should not be said. 

In the Book of James, we read that the tongue can be used for both good and evil, that it holds great power for either encouragement or destruction and that, like a spark that births the fire that consumes a great forest, our words can start a chain-reaction that can bring great devastation in the lives of others.  I believe in using the internet, social media, and any format available to spread the Gospel, to encourage other brothers and sisters in Christ, and to speak life into the lives of other people.  With that being said, I believe we all should think a little more before we speak, consider the weight of what we say and choose our words wisely.  I fear that many Christians care more about being heard than they do about being “right.”  If we are not careful, we may teach the generation behind us that “speaking your mind” is more important that “speaking the truth.” 

“A GENERATION OF FOOLS DOES NOT RAISE UP SAGES…BUT EVEN GREATER FOOLS.” –Hevyn Allen

(http://doubleeblessedmom.com/blog-feed/5-things-before-posting-on-social-media/)

The more mindful we are of what we say, the more likely we will be to use our words to uplift, to encourage, and the benefit those around us.  I challenge us all to spend more time in the Word, and in prayer, so that we will have the wisdom to “speak the truth in love” as those opportunities arise.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15)

 

  Consider the words of Paul in the following quote from 1 Corinthians, chapter 10:

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

and:

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Notice that Paul said that he did what he did so that “they might be saved.”  When we speak to others, when we “tweet” our update our Facebook status, may we all be mindful of the power that our words have, but most importantly, let us strive to conduct ourselves in a manner that brings glory to God, that encourages others, and that gives those who are lost a reason and the desire to come to know the God we serve!  As Christians, we have a responsibility and a calling to mingle our thoughts, our speech, and our lives with God’s Word.  As the Psalmist so eloquently put it:

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14


The Power of Encouragement

We know from both James and Proverbs that we either bless or curse others with our tongues.

21 The tongue can bring death or life;
those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Proverbs 18:21)

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be “nice” or to encourage people that we either don’t know well or are strangers to us?  It’s almost effortless to smile at someone in passing, or speak a kind word to someone you’re standing in line with.  However, for some reason, we have more difficulty at times (at least I do) doing those same things with the people we know well and with our family.  It’s no harder to encourage our children or our spouses than it is a stranger, but we seem to be lacking when it comes to showing “kindness” on a regular basis to our family members.  In fact, we may find it to be true that we encourage those who we are closest to less than total strangers!  (It should not be like this).

Our family may be starving for our attention or an encouraging word from us…and they deserve our best “kind” words and “encouragement” but they too often only get our leftovers and our crumbs of “kindness.”  Often it is not what we say to our families, but what we don’t say.  Do we seem distant to them because we are consumed with ourselves or our priorities and responsibilities?  If we, as men, become too focused on what we need or want to accomplish in life (or just on a daily basis) we may be sending the wrong message to our family that we are “too busy” for them or we have “more important” things to do than speak life and encouragement into their lives.  Are we telling those we love the most that they are not important by the sheer fact that we do not routinely assure them that they are?

There is a war raging to stop us from encouraging others in our life.  Encouragement is the “life’s blood” of the spiritual lives of those around us.  Without encouragement, our faith may dwindle or die a slow and painful death due to the lack of others “cheering you on” in the faith.  Look at what Hebrews 3:12-13 says:

12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.[a] Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.

Notice that verse 13 says that we should warn each other every day…in other words: we need constant and routine encouragement from others in the faith.

If we are not doing this on a regular basis to those around us, then we need to do two things:

1.  Figure out what is going on in your life to produce a critical, nitpicking spirit, and then allow God to heal that critical spirit in you.

**by the way…nitpicking is the opposite of encouragement!

2.  Give away the same encouragement that God has given you.

 

Encouragement is one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal, and it has the following effects on the lives of others:

 

1.  It can reduce pressure of stress in others’ lives when you encourage them

 

2.  It can dampen the power of temptation in others’ lives when you encourage them

 

3.  It has the power to produce spiritual endurance in those who we encourage.

(ie: going through a tough time, and someone comes along and tells you how God helped them through a similar situation)

 

Every man…..craves encouragement…but we get very little of it

Every man……needs encouragement, but not every man gets it

 

Make it a point this week to hold your tongue and choose to build someone up!


Who’s in Charge around here?

When we hear something on the news or over the radio about a disturbing or terrible event or breaking development, we often (if just for a moment) experience a sense of panic.  While a heightened sense of awareness in times of distress or tragedy is normal and sometimes beneficial, allowing that to spiral downward into despair or worry is harmful to our well-being, and spiritually wrong.

The Word tells us to: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7), to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, anddo not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5).  It also says things like, “for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).

These are but a handful of Scriptures that teach that God is in control, and the Bible is full of other such passages that encourage us to trust God.  So, why do we so quickly and so readily worry?  Many would say that it is just “human nature” to worry and that it is just an extension of the “fight or flight” response of our sympathetic nervous system to a perceived attack or threat to our survival.  However, I believe that there is a much deeper and spiritual context to be explored.

Our enemy, the devil, wants us to doubt God.  He wants us to doubt His promises and forget about His faithfulness.  When we start to wonder whether or not God can take care of us, then we begin to focus more on ourselves as the source of our help, and not our God.

“My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)

In the world we live in, and the times as they are, we must remember…and be reminded of what we read in 1 Samuel 2:

(1 Samuel 2:6-9)

6The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.

7The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up.

8He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.

He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor.

For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order.

9“He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness.

No one will succeed by strength alone.

 

In all of our lives, and in every situation we face, may we always remember and take comfort in these words from God’s Word: (1 Samuel 2:8c)

 

FOR ALL THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S

AND HE HAS SET THE WORLD IN ORDER


Don’t Stop Doing What You Know is Right!

Scripture references: 1 Samuel 2:12, 17,25, 3:18… Proverbs 22:6, Galatians 6:9

Eli’s sons are living  less-than-desirable lives, and they have thus far refused to heed their father’s warning to repent (2:25).  Eli was warned twice that destruction would come to his household because of the sins of his sons, but what we see is not the image of a father that continually beckons his sons to change-instead, Eli seems to just “give up” on his sons.  In 1Samuel 3:18, after hearing what the Lord said to Samuel about the impending doom of his household, Eli seems to “give up” because he says, “It is the Lord.  Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Instead of rising to the occasion to continue to try to “win” his sons to the Lord, Eli takes on a very passive role. 

Look at 1 Samuel 3:13:

13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” 

We see in this verse that the Lord Himself is “calling Eli on the carpet” and saying that Eli was not restraining his sons, thereby not fulfilling his Biblical role to shepherd his own. 

So, what’s the point

Do not give up!  Whether it is a child, another family member, or a friend that you are trying to lead to the Lord or train in the ways of the Lord [AND WE ALL SHOULD BE DOING ONE OF THESE ON AN ON-GOING BASIS!!], do not give up!  Proverbs 22:6 gives us the promise that if we do not give up on those whom we are responsible for to train in the fear and admonition of the Lord, then they will remain in His ways:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
[****see also Galatians 6:9]

Even when the situation looks bleak, and without hope, carry on, and trust that God will be faithful to you and to the promises He has provided to us all in His Word.  God’s love, flowing CONTINUALLY through us will draw them ever closer to the family of the redeemed!


What is Fear?

     Fear comes in many shapes, forms, ideals, and situations.  There is a difference, however between genuine fear and being startled or surprised.  If someone jumps out of the bushes at you and yells “boo!” then that is being startled, or frightened, or as some say, “scared.”  These things are temporary, and mostly fleeting emotions and responses to situations.
     Fear is something that lingers, much like guilt lingers in our minds and our hearts.  Fear can be consuming, too.  Some people are so full of fear that they are crippled and restricted from living a normal life. There are two definitions from http://www.dictionary.com  I would like to consider here:


1.  *“concern or anxiety; solicitude. ex: a fear for someone’s safety.”

The first definition is concern or anxiety.  This is not truly fear, but merely worry.  This is what the Bible is talking about when it says in Matthew 6:27 NLT, Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  Many people would call this fear, but this is just not what I consider to be the full embodiment of this emotion.   

     I believe that fear, the type of fear that consumes and debilitates individuals is best characterized by this second definition: 

2. *“a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

Remember that our enemy, the devil, is a liar; and he uses this emotion against so many of God’s children.  I have experienced this, you have experienced it, and I’m sure you know others who have, too.  Satan would have us so consumed with something that, as the definition states, could or could not be real.  We are all, at times, far too eager to entertain thoughts about situations and events that may never even happen.  This is a trick of the devil, and we need to recognize this tool of his and “take these thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.”  God did not intend for us to be afraid, about anything.
     We are supposed to cast all our cares on Him, and trust that He will take care of us.  We Christians don’t really have issues with fear as much as we have issues with trust; trust in the Lord.  Think about that.  Why would God ever do anything to hurt us?  Remember, every time God sent an angel to speak to us, the first thing the angels usually had to say was, “Fear not!”  That might seem silly to some, but the angel is from God, and we should trust God enough to not fear His messenger, right?
     Here’s my point:  Recognize improper fear as a hindrance to your relationship with God; and strive to remove it from your life.  For clarification, an example of proper fear is when someone pulls a gun on you and you are staring down the barrel.  I am sure that if that happened to me that I would have *”a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger.”  But God speaks to us in the Bible about how we should view fear:

“9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

One man, in particular, understood this view of fear, and he penned these words:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt-First Inaugural Address)

Fear is something we all will experience at times; there is no avoiding it.  But, I believe we are responsible for how we react to it.  Keep it in the proper perspective, and remember that it is nothing more than a tool used by the enemy to hurt us, deter us, to distract us, and (if allowed to take root in our lives) to destroy us.  Remember this promise of God whenever you start to feel fear:

“7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”(2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)

___________________________________________

Citations:
*“fear.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 01 May. 2011. .


Are you struggling with Internet Pornorgraphy?

There is freedom from this prison; but the question is “Do you want to be free?”

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

Focus on these 3 things:

1. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.”  Your struggle is NOT unique.  More men and women than you could possibly imagine struggle with this…but not everyone has the courage to admit they have a problem and need help.  The devil would have you think that you are alone and somehow inferior because of this struggle, but that is the furtherest thing from the truth. [ A LIE]  You, and I and countless others have suffered, or are currently suffering through this darkness.  But there is hope:

2. “God is faithful….He will also provide a way out” You know it to be true.  There is never a time that we sin that we don’t make a choice to sin.  Just before we click on that button or link to view the pornography, we make the choice to do it just before we act on it.  There is ALWAYS a way out.  We can always choose to walk away.  Why don’t we?  Because we try to fight the temptation in our own strength, and we do not take advantage of the most powerful resource that God has given us.  There is a word, that when spoken, will cause the devil to step back, it will give you leverage in the temptation, and the ability to hand the problem over to God (That’s where it belongs, anyway.)  So, what is this all-powerful word?  Look closely at the word, and study it.  Look up it’s definition in the dictionary so you can know the full meaning of this word.  Ok, so here is that powerful, mighty word:







“No.”






“Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV)

The “fruit” of the word “no” is the ability to give God our temptation and let Him fight our battle for us.  That is how He intended it to be, anyway.  When we fight in our own strength, we are doomed to fail.  Only when we let God fight for us, will we have victory.

3. “so that you can stand up under it.”  Only through God’s strength, and His guidance will you be able to  stand up under this temptation.  I know you feel the crushing weight of this darkness, this addiction, this cancer to your soul, but God will give you the strength to “stand up” under the weight of this burden.  Keep saying “no” and He will give you the strength to stand again on His promises, on His Word, and He will lift up your head and redeem you and give you the ability to walk the freedom and abundance of life that He so desires for us all. 


Please take the time to watch this video, and realize you are not alone in this struggle.