Friday, November 11, 2011

Philippians Fourmula

I know it's been a while but I just wanted to drop this little nugget I thought of last week. It's not much but if you use this formula on a daily basis, I believe it can really help you get through any day. (For anyone who may not catch it, all of these verses are from chapter 4 of Philippians hence the title "Philippians Fourmula").

"4. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 12. Learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 6. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request God because 13. you can do all this through Him who gives you strength. 8. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Priority Check

Haggai 1:1-10

Haggai 1:4 "Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"

Do this activity before continuing in your reading:

  1. Write down what an average day for you looks like from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. 
  2. Now look at that list and determine the top three things on there you never forget to do. 
  3. Now take a moment and review the list and think about this, is there a slot for God in your schedule? If so, is it one of the things you never forget to do?
This past Sunday, I asked my students to do the same activity. Many of their schedules did not include God, and not ONE of them said that spending time with God was something that they never forget to do.  How many of us are the same way? God gave me this message to suggest that it is time for us to check our priorities and these are the three things I believe Haggai reveals about this topic.

1. God's Property is first Priority. In this chapter of Haggai, God has told Haggai to give a message to the Israelites.  He tells them that they need to check their priorities. See, the Israelites were living large at home with all the latest amenities and the finest things but the House of God was in shambles. And not because of a recent disaster, but because the Israelites felt it was necessary to improve their homes before God's. God, however, tells the Israelites through Haggai that this is a mistake.  

God's Kingdom should always be our number one priority and honestly, it makes sense.  Think about it. Would you go over your neighbors house and remodel it before remodeling your own? Or would you go make up someone else's bed when yours is still a mess? Probably not. And our lives should reflect the same. We're told in Hebrews 13:14 that this earth is not our home so why do we treat it as such? If our home is really with Christ in God's Kingdom then shouldn't we take care of home first? This holds true in all aspects of our life. Should our personal endeavors take priority over God's will and purpose for our lives? If we choose not to put God and His Kingdom first in our lives, there can be consequences because Haggai also teaches us that...

2. God Provides for those who Properly Prioritize. Haggai goes on to tell the Israelites that the reason they seem to be surviving but not prospering is because they have their priorities in the wrong place.  Because they didn't put God first, He withheld blessings from them brought on droughts and famine (read verses 6-11). This is reflected in our own lives today. Often times, when you're waiting on a blessing from God, the reason you aren't receiving it is because your focus is in the wrong place.  Matthew 6:33 tells us, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well," (NIV). 

The great thing about this point is it reaches beyond just the spiritual but is reflected in the natural as well. Think about a time in your life where you improperly prioritized and it resulted in you missing out on a blessing. I bet you can think of a few.  One of my students shared that his friends decided to go to the McDonald's Career Fair and instead of going, he felt it was better that he relaxed and missed out on a job, which most of his friends now have.  If he had made finding a job a priority, he would more than likely be employed and better off for it.  Be sure to put your priorities in the right place in order to receive all of the blessings that God has lined up for you.

3. God's People should have a Place for Him in their Plans. One of my favorite professors from college shared this with me about priorities.  He said, "You know what your priorities are by how you spend your time, and how you spend your money." That stuck with me and really made me dissect my spending to determine where my priorities were. I came to the conclusion that at the time, spending time with God was not a priority in my life. Often times, I would plan on it, but I would keep pushing it back. Tell me if this sounds familiar: 

"I need to spend time with God today, but it's early I have all day to fit Him in. I'll do it when I return from work/school...Well I have homework, I really need to get that done first...Well now I'm hungry and I can't read the Bible on an empty stomach, all I'll do is think about I'm full but my favorite show is on and it's only gonna last 30 minutes so I'll have time's late, I might as well go to sleep because I'll probably fall asleep while reading anyway...I'll get up early tomorrow and do it."

That may not be your exact sequence but I believe many of us do this all the time where we put other things before God and end up leaving Him out of our agenda. The same goes with our tithes. Our tithe is supposed to be our first fruit so we shouldn't be giving God our leftovers.  We shouldn't be showing up on Sunday morning thinking, "Do I have 10% left to give God?" If that's the case, we're saying that paying bills, going out and getting nice things are more important than God's money. Should that be the case?

I challenge anyone who reads this to write down a revised schedule from the one you wrote earlier and include at minimum fifteen minutes with God. If you can give Him more, than do so but start somewhere.  Take that schedule and post it somewhere or carry it with you but try to live by it for the next 21 days until it becomes a routine. If you admit that God should be a priority in your life, make sure that your actions reflect your admission.

Be blessed.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Take the First Step

James 2: 14-25

James 2:17 "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead," (NIV).

An old friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook yesterday that brought me to this passage. He was explaining that he has been out of church for a while now, after the one he used to attend separated and revealed a lot of what was taking place behind the scenes. Since then, he has struggled to find his way back to a church home and asked for suggestion on how to return back to religion after being away for so long. Now I won't go into all that I said, but the driving point was that in order to complete this return, he would have to decide that's what he wants to do and then do it. That brought me to this passage, and this brings me to what I think we can learn from James' words here in Chapter 2.

Do your part. James brings up an interesting topic here in talking about good deeds. He says that faith alone is useless if it is not attached to an action. It's useless to believe that God will bless the homeless when you aren't out helping yourself. It's useless to believe God will provide you with a job if you haven't filled out an application. It's useless to believe God will give you a mate,when you decline any opportunity to go on a date. In each of these situations, believing in God, His power and His sovereignty can only go so far before it's time to do something yourself.

James uses the example of Abraham offering his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice saying that if Abraham had not went through with preparing the sacrifice, then God would not have seen him as righteous even though Abraham believed that God existed, (James 2:20-24). I'll take it another step further and mention Peter walking on water. Matthew 14 tells us the story of Jesus walking on the lake to get back to the boat where his disciples were. Once on the water, the disciples were afraid and Jesus told them, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid," (Matt. 14:27). Peter then spoke up and asked Jesus to call for him to walk on the water as well. Jesus obliged and Peter began to walk. It took a lot of faith for Peter to believe that it was Jesus he saw on that water and not just his imagination but it took even more action to actually go to Jesus. All Jesus could do was give Peter the ability to walk on the water by saying "Come.," but Peter had to take the first step on his own.

There isn't one area in our lives where faith alone has any worth. Even our salvation comes with an action. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved," (NIV). The first thing that Paul tells us is to declare, (or confess in other versions) which is an action. It comes before believing in this passage of scripture which shows that it is equally as important as faith.

We have to take the first step in our own lives just as Peter did on the lake. We can't just settle for believing that God exists and is all powerful because as James says, "Even the demons believe that--and shudder,"(v.19). We know that "with God all things are possible," but in order for anything to happen in our lives we have to first do our part by taking the first step, (Matt. 19:26, NIV).

Be Blessed,


Thursday, October 13, 2011

In The Midst

Nehemiah 9: 32-38

Nehemiah 9: 33 "In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong."

Today's Righteous Roulette brought me to Nehemiah and yet again, God gave me a word from what seemed like nowhere. This time we find the Israelites in the midst of slavery and there are a couple things we can take from this part of their history. So let's jump right into what I think this chapter teaches.

1. Learn your lesson. In this chapter of Nehemiah, the Israelites are confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness as was customary in their law. However, this particular confession was unique from what we may see as confessing nowadays.  The Israelite people were confessing not only for their current situations, but for past transgressions that their ancestors had committed against God. The funny thing about the whole situation, however, is that it sounds like a broken record as they repeat the same sins over and over again as a people. God blesses them, they get spoiled, they worship some other idols, God punishes them by allowing them to get conquered, they beg for forgiveness and God blesses them again. Then the entire cycle repeats itself over and over again, (read the beginning of chapter 9 for details).

As an observer, I found the Israelites to be foolish to try God that way time after time and not believe there would be some sort of consequence for their actions but then I realized we do the same thing everyday. Whether it's worshiping other idols, (actors, sports stars or even our Pastors and Bishops) lying, cheating, stealing or lusting, we still repeat the same sins constantly and then wonder why certain desires in our life aren't fulfilled or why life just seems hard.

Paul tells us in Romans that "where sin increased, grace increased all the more," and many of us take that for granted knowing that God will forgive us, (5:20, NIV). However, he goes on to say in Chapter 6, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!," (v 1-2, NIV). Just because we know that God will forgive us if we confess our sins, doesn't mean that we should continue to be disobedient. Jesus told us, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching," so even if we aren't obedient to avoid the consequences, we should do so simply because we say that we love God, (John 14:23 NIV). We know that actions speak louder than words so prove to God you love him by learning your lesson and turning away from sin.

2. Praise Him in Advance. The other important lesson that stuck out to me in this story is the fact that in the midst of their slavery, the Israelites were celebrating. They were celebrating as the recounted the many times they turned away from God. They celebrated as they recounted every time they were made slaves and every time God punished them for their disobedience. They celebrated even as they were enslaved at that moment for the same disobedience and did so not because they enjoyed being slavery, but because across that same history of disobedience and punishment, there was a history of grace, mercy and redemption. God gave the Israelites chance after chance and they knew that God loved them so much He would be willing to give them another chance if they turned their attention back towards Him.

There are countless situations where praising God in the middle of your trouble has brought nothing but reward. Never have I read a story where praising God at your lowest point has only made troubles worse and never resulted in some sort of breakthrough. Whether it was Daniel in the lions den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace, Paul and Silas in prison or Job's unfortunate chain of events, each of them praised God when it seemed like a hopeless situation and God showed up every time.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us "Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (NIV). Don't let you situation prevent you from fulfilling God's will for you. Whether up or down, rich or poor, happy or sad, the joy of God should always be with you so praise God in advance for what he can and will do in your life.

Be Blessed,


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hear Say

1 Samuel 3:1-10

V. 7) "Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him,"(NIV).

This morning has been pretty interesting as I woke up seeking to hear from God where He would have me to go with my next devotional.  Little did I know that He would send me to a scripture by pure chance that would deal with hearing the voice of God, (seriously, I went to the Bible app in my phone, closed my eyes and started scrolling up and down on the touch screen to land at this exact chapter). The crazy thing, however, is that as soon as I started reading, I knew that God wanted me to share a word from this story but it didn't quite jump off the pages for me as it often times does. So what did I have to do? Listen. And that's where this entry will begin.

There are a couple things that God shares with us through the story of Samuel here in chapter 3 that I feel are important for us to understand in order to ensure that we follow the will of God and they are as follows:

1. Hear no God, Know no God. This goes out to all the "Samuels" out there and if you aren't quite sure who you are, just listen to this description. Samuel was practically born and raised in the house of God. His mother gave him back to God as soon as she weened him, he had a mentor in Eli who was a man of God and he served the house of the Lord consistently for years. Does that sound like you at all? Raised in the church, dedicated to God as a child, grew up singing in the choir or serving as an usher? Not quite finished though, because although he was raised in the church and surrounded by all of the right people in order to be a great man of God, Samuel still could not recognize God's voice. Maybe this still sounds like you.

Verse 7 tells us very clearly that "Samuel did not yet know the Lord" and as a result, did not understand when the Lord was speaking to Him. Often times, we say we're waiting on a word from the Lord but don't hear it because we don't know what we're listening for. In the Gospel of John, Jesus addresses this issue with a parable about the "Good Sheppard." He tells us that the Good Sheppard "walks ahead of [the sheep], and they follow because him because they know his voice" (John 10:4, NLT). Jesus then goes on to explain that He is the Good Sheppard that we are to be following and we should know that we're following Him because we should recognize His voice. Do you have a hard time hearing God speak to you? Are you like Samuel and when you hear Him speak you are not sure who is talking or where it's coming from? If so, you may not know God as you think you do but thank God, there's hope because...

2. The Spirit Reveals the Father. The second half of verse 7 tells us, "The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to [Samuel]." That implies that it was not completely Samuel's fault that he did not know the voice of God. In order for something to be revealed, that means it had to have first been hidden or kept secret  as God's word often times was during that time. Verse 1 tells us that when it says "In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions," (NIV). However, we live in a new day where the Spirit of God can reside in each and every one of us and that same Spirit is responsible for revealing the will of God to us. 1 Corinthians 2 speaks on this subject and is something you should read for further understanding but for the sake of carpal tunnel, (which I guess would make more sense if I were actually writing instead of typing) I can only summarize by saying that it's once we receive the Holy Spirit that the thoughts of God can be revealed to us. Without His Spirit, we are destined to not understand as only with a spiritual mind can we understand spiritual teachings.

So if you are in a place where you feel that you aren't quite sure what God wants of you or what He is saying to you as I was when I started this blog an hour ago, stop and take time to ask God to reveal his word to you through the Spirit. If you don't have the Spirit within you, then this is a good opportunity to refer to Romans 10:9-10 and accept Christ into your life by first confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.  Either way, know this: God is always talking to you and is ready to reveal His will to you.  He's just waiting for you to do as Samuel did and reply "Speak, for your servant is listening," (v. 10).

Have a blessed day.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Love, Hope and Pizza

It's been entirely too long since I've blogged but since I've had to prepare a Word for my youth weekly, I feel I might as well come back and at LEAST share the same Word with anyone who would like to read.  So my first entry will be what I shared with the youth last week at Bible Study entitled "Love, Hope and Pizza." We talked about Godly dating and God gave me 6 Ways Godly Dating is like Making a Pizza. I hope the Word blesses you as much as it blessed me. :)

1. You have to know how before you can begin. If I were to ask just about anyone reading this to go to their nearest Dominoes, Pizza Hut or Papa Johns and make a pizza from scratch, the end product would probably be tragic.  And it wouldn't mean that you were incapable of doing it correctly, just that you were ignorant to the process of making a pizza.  In the same sense, if you do not know what God says about dating before you start dating, you're bound to make a mistake down the road.  It's likely that you may miss out on blessings or spend a lot of time starting over trying to get it right the next time.  Not to say that if you date the way that God says you'll find the one for you on the first try, but there is less likely to be emotional scars, drama and residual consequences involved if you stay within the context of the Word.

2. Your foundation must be in order before building on it. The first thing I learned when I started working at Hungry Howie's Pizza was how to prepare and make dough. Before learning how many pepperonis go on a large pizza, or how many slices a medium pizza is cut into, I had to know the proper way to prepare the dough. Before working there, I did not know that the bubbles that I sometimes used to see on my pizza were a result of improper dough treatment.  Or that if my crust was flat or not round on all the edges, that too was improper dough treatment.  The point is, in order to properly make a pizza you have to take care of the foundation first. You can't add the toppings to dough that isn't ready and expect to have a successful pizza.  Likewise, if our foundation isn't in order it's foolish to think that we can add other influences to our lives and not have an effect on our future.  It's difficult to determine who you are as a person and discern God's will for you when you have another person's beliefs, values and opinions influencing your own.  It's hard to hear what God is saying to you when you already have someone in your ear. On that same note, your faith in God and relationship with Him must be together before you can invest in another relationship.  Priority number one should be firming up your foundation in Christ before adding a single topping to your life.

3. There is a proper order and time when things should be done. This point is pretty self explanatory.  If I bake a pizza and then add the toppings, it's not going to come out right. If I ask a girl to be my girlfriend and then ask her for her name, chances are that won't work right either. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens" (NIV). There is an order in the way Godly dating is supposed to take place and operating outside of that order brings consequences. The Word tells us that sex should be reserved for marriage.  If we operate outside of that order, there is the risk of pregnancy, STI and emotional baggage. If we have children outside of marriage, we can deal with emotionally damaged children, strained relationships between parents and the start or continuing of an unhealthy cycle. In either case, there is a right path to a successful Godly relationship and attempting to take any other path could result in consequences that can easily be avoided if we would only stay within the parameters that God has set for us in His word.

4. Although you have choices in type, there should always be a common thread. Pizzas come in all shapes and sizes but the one things you will always see on a pizza is crust.  Whether it's thin crust, deep dish, stuffed crust or hand tossed, there is always dough which in turn makes crust. In the same way, we may have a preference in our flavor of potential mate. We may like them short or tall, light or dark, skinny, thick or thicker but either way, we must always have dough. Referring back to my second point, our dough is our foundation in Christ and that should be something that is a requirement of all those we date. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers as we have nothing in common with them. When having this discussion with my youth, they all agreed that having something in common with the person they date was of utmost importance so if that's the case, shouldn't your belief be one of those things? Shouldn't you have in common the desire to spend time with God, the belief that prayer works and the trust that God's word and will is sovereign? Because if you believe that dating is a stepping stone to finding your husband or wife one day, then don't you think it's best to not have to worry about if you're children are going to have to attend church or if you're both of you are going to tithe? The person's relationship with God should be the first quality you look for in a potential date because if they lack foundation, so will the relationship. And keep in mind, you can't add crust to a pizza after you cook it...If that went over your head let me know.

5. You can't properly prepare more than one at a time. The keyword here is "properly." I don't have to go into too much detail as to what this one means as I think it's clear but I will say this. This point doesn't just apply to balancing more than one boyfriend or girlfriend at a time.  The other scenario I see in this point is sexual. The Bible tells us that when we sleep with someone, our spirits are joined as one, (1 Cor. 6:15-16). So in the same sense, if we have sex before marriage, whomever we do marry will now be getting more than one spirit. Think about this: If you were to order and pay for a pizza from your nearest pizzeria and they brought you a box with three slices left in it, how would you feel? Would you demand a refund? Maybe an explanation? Would you feel shorted? Well that's what we're doing when we give ourselves to anyone who isn't our spouse. It's as if every time we sleep with someone, we're giving them a bite or a slice out of our pizza. Then once we get to our spouse, we present them with a half eaten pizza saying, "Sorry, I let whatshername have some first." Think about what kind of pizza you'd like to get on your wedding day and let that be motivation to give your spouse all of you and not just the leftovers.

6. When done the right way, it will bring joy to your heart. I love making a perfect pizza.  Even when I don't get to eat it, I know that when my customer opens the box, they will be as excited to eat it as I was to give it to them and that is pure joy. There are no worries, no regrets and no guilt as I proudly hand them their box.  Godly dating is even more fulfilling.  When that day comes that you find the one that God has set aside for you and you have done it the way that God says, pure bliss will be the only way to describe your relationship. Not to say that you won't hit a bump or two down the road, but you won't have to worry about children when you weren't ready, ex-husbands or wives that won't let go, self esteem issues due to bringing in unwanted spirits or anything of the like because you did it God's way.  And if there's one thing we should know, it's that God's way is ALWAYS the best way.

I hope this has been a blessing to someone. Be back soon with another devotional.  

God Bless.


Monday, November 15, 2010

1st Round Draft Choice

In the story discussed formerly involving Daniel and the lion's den, Daniel was envied because of his prosperity and success as an administrator for the King.  Due to their envy, the other administrators wanted to get rid of Daniel somehow but could find no fault in Daniel.  My last devotional revealed my amazement in the righteousness of Daniel to be found blameless by his peers and then mentioned that we should strive to live the same type of lifestyle without blemish.  This week's series of devotionals will give a few reasons that we should consider when asking ourselves, "Why strive for perfection when being mediocre still grants me access to heaven if I'm saved?"  I will divide the answers into two categories: The Reasons and the Rewards being the reasons God tells us to be righteous and the rewards we can receive if we do so.  

Reason #1: We rep Christ. The title Christian literally means "one relating to, belonging to, or resembling Christ."  So if it could be put simple, we are on "Team Christ" and everywhere we go, we represent our team as if we were wearing a jersey or baseball cap with the Christ written across it.  To take it another step further, often times we do wear various Christian apparel or drive around with bumper stickers or other Christian paraphernalia that tells the rest of the world of our affiliation with Christ.  However, what we tend to forget every so often is that because we made a conscience decision to join the team, we now have to fit a certain image associated with Christ. (If you haven't yet, read my blog, Bourne Again Identity for more on image).  

Imagine the day that we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior being like Draft day for the NFL.  As soon as we step up to the stage and put on the hat in front of our peers, we now belong to God. Like the NFL GMs, we are told God paid a "high price" for us so now we are under contract to live for Him, (1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT).  Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight"(NIV).  The crazy thing is, it seems sometimes that most of those who do not claim Christ as their Lord know more about how we as Christians are supposed to live than we do.  They can point out anytime we aren't in alignment with the will of God any opportunity they get and as a result, it looks bad for our team.  Anytime we aren't gentle, kind, loving, forgiving, merciful, pure or any of the other characteristics of God, we damage the image of our owner and makes it so that others are hesitant to join the same team.  We have to "live in such a way that no one will be hindered from finding the Lord by the way (we) act and so no one can find fault in (our) ministry" (2 Corinthians 6:3 NIV) so that everyone wants to join "Team Christ."

Always remember who it is you represent everywhere you go.  We don't want to tarnish the name of God with our actions so we should take after Daniel and make sure that those who are watching us can find no corruption in us.  Rep Christ the right way, Holy and Blameless.