Your Own Words
Matthew 25: 14-30; Luke 19:11-26
The parable of the talents in both the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke are two of the most powerful texts in scripture. These texts describe the role our words have in the rewards we will receive at the return of Christ. But our words are not only for our future, they also manifest results in the present. We just need to pay attention to the words that come out of our mouths. This truth is expressed throughout scripture.
In both of these parables of Jesus, we have an account of servants being entrusted with the goods of someone greater for the purpose to produce or increase the initial amount given. This directive is brought out most clearly in Luke’s account. “Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ (Luke 19:13) There is no direction given on how to produce. For those of us familiar with these parables, some did produce with what they were entrusted with. Sadly, the third servant had done absolutely nothing with what was entrusted to him. “But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’ (Luke 19:21)
The King was furious with this servant because after being gone for such a long time, the servant remained content with doing nothing with the money he received. Interestingly, the servant thought he made a good decision by simply keeping what he had been given. But what’s more compelling is the King’s response to the servant. “‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you ... why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ (Luke 19:22-23)
Our words can condemn us. Jesus said “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matthew 12:36-37) I believe God wants us to be mindful of what we say. Why? Our words have power over our actions. Our words have an influence- good or bad. “The tongue can bring death or life; (Proverbs 18:21) What we say impacts our present as well as our future. We must choose our words carefully because they are a blueprint of what we do and impact what happens to us.
My encouragement to each of us today and going forward is to be mindful of what we say. Let our words be used for good. Let us encourage one another with words that give life, and not death. Let our words produce for us positive action which results in our present and future rewards. vice.
Rescued Out of Afflictions
Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all ( King James Version).
Many hardships and perplexing circumstances confront the righteous, but the Lord rescues him from them all (Amplified Bible).
A man who does what is right and good may have many troubles. But the Lord takes him out of them all (New Life Version).
Psalm 34:19 has been one of my favorite bible verses for decades. It has been a form of promise and encouragement when times have been tough. You may have heard the saying “When times get tough, the tough gets going.” While those words may be a way to challenge and encourage, they are in no way close to the words “strength to continue until deliverance from the Lord arrives.”
Three different versions of Psalm 34:19 (King James, Amplified Bible, and New Life) are listed above. The intent is to show versions with different words but the same meanings. In all three versions we are informed and reminded that tough times will come to the righteous - those who are in right standing with God. Those tough times may be called afflictions, hardships, perplexing circumstances, or just plain trouble. But the answer has always and will forever be the same until the day Christ comes back to receive us.
It doesn’t matter whether we use the words deliver, rescue, or takes - the result is still the same. God will not allow His children to remain in afflictions, hardships, and trouble indefinitely. He informs us those difficult times will come, but He also gives us comfort in reminding us that in each and every situation we will be delivered/rescued. Notice there is no time frame given as to how long we will go through a certain test or strain. But remember what God said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).”
May these words also comfort and strengthen you as you go through (and I do mean “through).” Remember trouble doesn’t last forever. Not only will God rescue and deliver you out of your trials and afflictions - He will be with you while you go through them. You will never walk alone. Know that the day will come when you most definitely will be rescued out of your affliction. Expect to be rescued. Expect to be delivered.
Dr. Lightsey's Message
1 My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. 8 They would not be like their ancestors—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him (Psalm 78:1-8).
The above scripture is instruction from Asaph - the chief of the Levites appointed to minister before the Ark of the Lord. He and his brothers were appointed to sing songs of thanksgiving to the Lord. Also, he was inspired by God to deliver messages to his listeners - in this passage, his descendants.
He told and instructed them to tell the next generations about the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” He told them God had commanded them to teach the laws to their children who in turn would teach the next generation, and so on. But in verse 8 he instructed them not to be like their ancestors - “a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines loyal as faithful to a private person to whom faithfulness is due, or faithful to a cause, idea, custom, institution, or product. So, we see the previous generation was stubborn, rebellious, and disobedient. They were not loyal to the God Who had stood with them, provided for them, kept them, loved them, nourished them, and never deserted them. Their hearts were not loyal, committed, and dedicated to the God Who was their all in all.
The message and directive has not changed. All born again believers are encouraged and challenged to possess “loyal hearts.” Not only should we keep God first in our daily lives, but also instruct our future generations to do the same. We serve a God Who loves us, provides for us, keeps us, and is above all others. May we never forget to sing His praises and tell of His goodness. May we forever be the bearers of “loyal hearts.”
Pastor Sharen's Message
When I Look...
As I meditate on the scriptures, sometimes a passage will compel me to look at it a little longer. That doesn’t mean to look at the words and how they appear on the page. I need to stop and consider what God is saying. I am to slow down and think about the meaning, the intent of the passage.
Not only does this happen when I meditate on the scriptures, but it happens under different circumstances. It can happen when I am driving, working in the yard, or even cleaning the house. The Holy Spirit will cause me to look, to think, to stop and reflect. These moments bring me back to our Father, the source of all things. And I am reminded of how much my Father loves me and has taken such good care of me my entire life.
Well, that’s what David is doing in this scripture. Just imagine that David is out taking a walk at night, and he looks up at the night sky. The sun, the moon, and the stars occupy the heavens. Somehow, they don’t fall. He observes the arrangement and order of these things, and then considers how God thinks about the human race.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and stars that you set in place — what are mere mortals, that you concern yourself with them; humans, that you watch over them with such care? (Psalms 8:3-4)
Another instance when David was “looking”, he pens these words: “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” (Psalms 121:1-2)
Again, David not only sees the physical mountains. He understands that just because the mountains may keep one safe from the enemy’s attacks, the Help comes from God, the one who made the mountains. He’s the one who truly protects. He’s the one who keeps us safe.
My encouragement to us today is to look! reflect! consider! think! Our Father wants us to look beyond our physical surroundings and see Him. So, my brothers and sisters, let’s make it our goal to “look” more often.
A TIME AND SEASON
“For everything, there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”
As we look back on last year and approach a new one, many people wonder what’s ahead. The world was sent reeling with the COVID 19 pandemic. Life as we knew came to a screeching halt and remained that way for most of the year. Unfortunately, the pandemic has continued into the new year. Many are impatient and tired of this season of sickness, death, and quarantine. They are anxious to get back to what was normal to them before the pandemic hit.
Yet, in scripture, we are reminded that there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. No one knows when we will get back to some kind of normalcy. No one has the answers. No one but our Father. But the one thing we know for certain is that seasons change with time. We know that this season of the pandemic will cease.
There are four seasons each year: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Even though in some places, the weather remains consistent, other signs let us know what season we are in. For example, certain fruit and vegetables are only grown during particular seasons. If we want these kinds of fruit and vegetables fresh, we must wait on the season. When the season comes, there is a time set for these items. These items are abundant for a certain time during the season.
Such is the case with our lives. We face various challenges for a season and a time. We don’t know when we will move from one season to another. It just happens. During any of these seasons, we continue to look to our Father to keep us, sustain us, protect us, deliver us, etc. No matter the season, we can look back to see how faithful the Lord has been to us. We are continually reminded that our Father is with us, and will be with us no matter what season we are in.
The Lord reminds us about His faithfulness and protection with these words: “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalms 32:8)
So, my brothers and sisters, remember that our circumstances do not control or direct our lives. God does. We put our trust and confidence in Him who rules over everything. We listen to His voice of instruction and are confident that He is our hiding place. He will protect us from trouble. He will surround us with songs of victory. (Psalms 32: 7)
As we move forward into the uncertainties of our future, we know that things change because “For everything, there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” So, let’s be encouraged. There’s a new season ahead.
Godliness and Contentment
1 Timothy 6:6-7
6 But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so [it is clear that] we cannot take anything out of it, either (Amplified Bible).
Have you ever considered godliness as a source of great gain when it is accompanied and put in action with contentment? Godliness not only involves believing in God, but also honoring and respecting His character and laws. Vocabulary.com defines “contentment” as the state of being happy and satisfied, a peaceful ease of mind, and being satisfied with what you have, whatever that is.
The apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy disputes the false teaching that “gain” is godliness and directs him to withdraw himself from anyone who teaches such. Obviously, some were teaching that “gain” (material wealth) was directly connected to godliness. Paul’s teaching was that godliness (believing in God, and honoring and respecting His character and laws) was the purest form of wealth if one was already satisfied with what he had.
There are so many biblical references that remind us that God will supply all we need to bless others while at the same time clothing and feeding us and providing all the necessities of life. We are reminded to be content with what we have today and what’s needed tomorrow will be provided tomorrow. Remember Christ taught His disciples to pray and instructed them to petition the Father to “give us this day our daily bread.” In other words, count on God to supply all you need for today. Tomorrow and each day going forward He will supply what you need as those days arrive.
Verse 7 tells us that we had no material things accumulated when we entered the land of the living and we will not take any material things with us when we leave the land of the living. Thus, we should invest and enjoy that which is spiritual and never dies - a life filled with godliness and contentment.
Are You In? Part 2
Genesis 24:60-67; 25:19-24
What were Rebekah’s thoughts as she traveled the long journey to meet her future husband? She no doubt had lots of questions for the servant. She was a curious young woman. She was also strong and courageous. I can imagine that Abraham’s servant smiled on the way back with a knowing that he had found the perfect wife for Isaac.
Rebekah’s family sent her away with this prophetic blessing. “Our sister, may you become the mother of many millions! May your descendants be strong and conquer the cities of their enemies.” (Gen. 24:60) The blessing was a broad and specific one. She would bear many children. Her line would produce strong descendants and conquer their enemies. In other words, the blessing was for the future prosperity and success of her family. Wow! Little did they realize how this blessing would come to fruition.
But there was a challenge they faced. Once Rebekah and Isaac settled down together, she was not able to bear children. This circumstance grieved both of them. But the scripture tells us that Isaac pleaded to God that his wife would have children. God heard his prayer. Rebekah became pregnant not with one child, but with two! She was going to have twins! A double blessing at one time! We can only imagine their joy. Scripture tells us that Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah and 60 years old when she gave birth!
Rebekah’s pregnancy, however, was tremendously difficult. The scripture tells us that the two children “struggled with each other in her womb”. (Gen. 25:22) In other words, the children pushed against each other so intensely inside of her. It was so intense that she went to the Lord about it. “And the Lord told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” (Gen. 25:23) So this was the reason there was such a fight between these children: She was carrying in her womb two rival nations! Wow! Again, imagine the thoughts that went through Rebekah’s mind about this revelation!
Yet, Rebekah said yes to be a part of God’s divine plan. She had no idea what was in her future, but she was willing to leave her family for the unknown. It was her yes that brought forth these two nations that have influenced the world! She was in! Jesus said these words: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Again, I ask the question, Are you in?
Good News and Happiness
“And the angel said unto them, fear not: for: behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior; which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11, KJV).
Today, the world is experiencing many extreme challenges: Covid 19, high unemployment, political party friction, economic and social distress, and systemic racism. Although these challenges are not evident in every country, they exist worldwide nonetheless.
In the midst of these “opportunities to overcome” I am reminded of the announcement that came to the shepherds as they watched over their sheep in the night-covered fields. “And the angel said unto them, fear not: for: behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior; which is Christ the Lord.”
The Vocabulary.com Dictionary defines tidings as “an old-fashioned word for recent news. If someone says “I bring you good tidings!” it means they have information to share you will probably like. The same dictionary defines joy as the emotion of pleasure and happiness. Joy can also be the very thing that delights you. Also, joy in its spiritual meaning of expressing God’s goodness is a deep-rooted, inspired happiness.
With the “not so good” news we have had during the past year, I want to remind you of the “good news” that was proclaimed many, many years ago. A Savior, Christ the Lord was born and His birth signaled the process of mankind’s redemption. This birth was a result of God’s love for the world (mankind) He created. He loved you and me so much that He gave His only begotten Son to us. If anyone accepts the gift God the Father gave through His Son the Savior, that individual inherits eternal life (John 3:16).
Therefore, the good news and happiness every Christmas season and every day of the year is that the gift of salvation is available to anyone who accepts it. Though we are currently in the midst of many trials and tests, setbacks and struggles, always remember to share the “good news and happiness.”
Are You In?
“So, they called Rebekah. “Are you willing to go with this man?” they asked her. And she replied, “Yes, I will go.”
One of my favorite accounts in scripture is the story of when Rebecca chose to be Isaac’s wife. Here is a beautiful narrative about a woman’s faith! In Genesis Chapter 24, the author shares with us the assignment that Abraham gave to his trusted servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. Sarah had passed away by this time, and Abraham knew that his time would come soon. He did not want Isaac to be alone. He discussed his concern with his most trusted servant and commissioned him to find a wife for his son. Abraham did not want his son to marry one of the local Canaanite women. He wanted a wife from among his relatives who lived a long way off. Under no circumstance was Isaac to go there to search for a wife or live among his relatives. He wanted his servant to go there to find a wife for Isaac and bring her back.
What if she didn’t want to come? What if he couldn’t find a wife? But Abraham reassured his servant that God would go before him to make sure he found a wife for his son. His servant agreed and left.
Upon arrival, he rested with his camels. He prayed for success that day. He didn’t want to search for a long time. He asked the God of Abraham to choose Isaac’s future wife and confirm it by two things. The first by giving him water at his request, and then offering to water his camels. Even before he had finished his prayer, Rebekah came with her water jug. He made his request for a drink. She quickly gave him water and offered to draw water for his camels. During his conversation with her, the servant found that she was a relative of Abraham! He gave her a few gifts. She went home to tell her family what had just happened to her while he waited by the well.
Her brother Laban came to the well and invited him to stay with them. The servant went to their house, explained his mission, stayed overnight, and was ready to leave the next morning. His mission was successful. He wanted to return quickly to his master. Her parents wanted her to stay for ten days before leaving. After all, this might be the last time they would ever see their daughter and sister again. But the servant was ready to go. They called Rebekah and asked her if she was willing to go with this man. She said yes, she would go.
She didn’t say she would think it over. Her response was one of faith. “Yes, I will go.” I often wondered what she thought was ahead of her. Why was she not afraid to go with this stranger? What if she didn’t like Isaac? Maybe he wouldn’t like her. Scripture doesn’t give us any insight into Rebekah’s thoughts except that she was willing to go. She was in. No matter what the future held for her, she was in.
That’s the question I have for you. “Are you in?” What are you willing to do for your God? How far will you go to be a part of God’s divine plan? Do you need all your questions answered before you agree to make a decision?
Rebekah had what she needed to say yes. She said yes, and God blessed her! We’ll talk more about this next month. But for now, ask yourself the question, “Am I in?”
Sufficiency and Satisfaction
(Psalm 34:8-10, 107:8-9, Matthew 5:6)
There are a lot of discussions taking place these days about our nation’s ills. Words like Covid, economics, recession, and racism are common in conversations of the day. There is a lot of ear in the hearts and minds of some people as they contemplate whether or not their income and/or savings will be sufficient to sustain them through these tough times. The economy experts continue to tell us that if our income and financial reserve are not sufficient we will not be able to live a satisfied life.
However, I want to remind you that complete sufficiency and satisfaction is found and realized only in the Almighty God and Jesus Christ Who is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The Lord has already blazed the trail and finished the course. Our daily success and continued sustainability can come only through Him.
Psalm 34:8-10 “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him (8). Oh fear (reverence and honor) the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want (lack) to them that fear (reverence and honor) him (9). The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want (lack) any good thing (10).
The antidote to surviving in today’s society and having sufficiency and satisfaction is simply trusting in the Lord. Notice verse 9 states that saints who trust in the Lord by showing honor and reverence will not be in lack - but will have what they need and desire. So the question is, “How do we honor and reverence God?” We honor and reverence God by being obedient to His way, His will, and His Word. If we walk in complete obedience to God we are guaranteed (according to God’s Word) to live in sufficiency and satisfaction. Notice that verse 10 states…”they that seek (trust) the Lord shall not want (lack) any good thing.” We must trust God with every aspect of our lives. We must live lives that are pleasing to Him and not lives that are pleasing to ourselves or to others. God is our Creator and all we do or say must be pleasing in His sight. That means we yield our lives to Him and trust that all outcomes will be outcomes of sufficiency and satisfaction.
Psalm 107”8-9 - “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness (loving kindness), and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (8). For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (9).
The true saints of God have a longing, an extreme desire to be in constant fellowship with Him and to totally trust Him. It is that extreme desire for fellowship and trust that God satisfies by filling us with His goodness (loving kindness). It is vitally important to understand that when God fills you with His goodness there is no room (in you) for insufficiency or dissatisfaction. Insufficiency or dissatisfaction cannot and will not exist in a vessel that is filled with God’s goodness. There is no room for the “bad stuff” if a vessel is filled with the “good stuff.” Now that’s a revelation that will make you give God some praise!
Matthew 5:6 - “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” You will “hunger and thirst after (for) righteousness” once you have realized you have void to fill and that void can only be filled by God. They shall be filled (Greek, chortazo) refers to a complete satisfaction. Remember, the psalmist’s words in Psalm 107:9: “He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with righteousness.”
In conclusion, if we always honor and reverence God by living in complete obedience to Him we will always experience sufficiency and satisfaction through His goodness and lovingkindness. We will never have to live in fear or lack because if we trust in God, He will keep us in perfect peace as we keep our minds stayed (focused) on Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Take Off the Veil
“But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Cor 3:16-18)
There are times when believers in Christ endure the disappointment of loved ones who refuse to come to Him. We don’t understand how they can’t “see” how important and life-changing serving Christ is. It grieves our spirits when we extend so much of our energy to try to get them to understand the truth. We desire that they get to know Christ so they can be free from the power of darkness.
In Chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians, Paul addresses this issue by comparing the old way with the new way. Paul writes that even though the old way was glorious, it led to death. The new way is more glorious because it leads to our right standing with God! He qualifies this truth by saying that the old way was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. Therefore, the old way which was glorious to a certain degree was replaced by something more glorious that remains forever! (2 Cor 3:10-11)
He further compares these two glories by saying that this new glory brings a different response than the old glory. The old glory required that Moses put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was a fading glory. The people’s minds were hardened. It brought fear to them to even see a glimpse of being in the presence of God. When people still focus on the law, the veil still covers their minds and hearts. The only way for the veil to be removed and for their hearts to be opened is by believing in Christ. Until one accepts Christ, the veil remains and they don’t understand spiritual truths.
But when a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. One can then see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the difference between the fading glory, and this glory is that this glory makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image. How magnificent is that!
This glory urges us to continue to win souls for Christ. “And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. (2 Cor 4:15)
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! (2 Cor 4:16-17)
With these promises in mind, we should continue to pray that the veil be taken away from the minds and hearts of those who currently are not able to “see” the truth.
How to Live an Effective Christian Life
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things: and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
I have learned that you don’t succeed by accident. You succeed on purpose. You are or become successful because you intend to do so. It never happens by accident or circumstance. You must prepare, put your mind to it, and put your plan in action. You will never possess what you are not willing to pursue.
This is the same message the “seasoned” apostle Paul gave to the young pastor, Timothy. He told him to fight the good fight of faith. As part of that message he told him that the success of Christian living depends on learning to do three things: flee, follow, and fight.
You must flee from things the devil initiates, distorts, and manipulates. One of the things (among many) named to flee or avoid is the love of money. It is classified as the root of all evil (see verse 10). You must follow after the things of God. These things include but are not limited to righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. You must fight the good fight of faith. It is the only fight you are called to fight. You do it by believing in your heart and saying with your mouth. (Romans 10:10) That is how Christ defeated satan - with the Word of God.
Your two weapons for living a successful Christain life are the Word of God and the Name of Jesus. Psalm 119:105 tells us that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. The Word gives instruction for Godly living and guides and illuminates the way for a righteous lifestyle. Proverbs 18:10 tells us the name of Jesus is a strong tower - the righteous run to it and are safe.
Let’s not think these words and directives applied only to those named in the scriptures. They apply to you, me, and all who want to please the Master by living an effective Christian life. We must always walk worthy of the vocation to which we have been called. it.
What is Your Faith Producing?
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? (verse14)
So, you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (verse 17-18)
Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? (verse 20)
So, you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. (verse 24)
Just as the body is dead without breath,[i] so also faith is dead without good works. (verse 26)
This letter from James is one of the earliest letters written to the church. James makes an appeal to the body of Christ that we should do more to reflect our responsibility with and to Christ by our actions.
In Acts 10:38, Luke writes, “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”.
Scripture encourages us to do good to all people when we have the opportunity, but especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
James confronts the believers in this. He tells them that our saying we believe in Christ, but our actions not supporting what we say means nothing. What we say and what we do should be connected. You see faith, like love, is an action word. Our faith acts out in works of love. No matter the inconvenience or the challenge, we must still demonstrate our faith by doing good works. Otherwise, we have a dead faith – a nonworking unproductive faith.
This kind of faith does nothing at all to help anyone. Our righteousness, or right standing with God, not only comes from believing, it also comes from producing good works. We must understand that our salvation is not for us alone, but it is to show the love of God to others.
So, let us be mindful of this exhortation, and remember that faith without good works is dead, and we are shown to be right with God, by what we do, and not by faith alone. We must ask ourselves the question, “What is my faith producing?”
The Right Way
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV).
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12, NIV).
Recently, I was driving home from a business trip and decided to find my way home without any assistance. I knew that I had to head east to get to my town. After traveling for about half an hour I began to wonder why I had not seen any familiar landmarks. It was then that I decided to use a navigation system for help. I was correct in that I should be traveling east, but I had been going southeast instead of northeast. The navigation system put me in the right direction and allowed me to correct my mistake.
How true this is when it comes to our spiritual walk. Proverbs 3:5 instructs us to “trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding.” Certainly there are times when we may feel we have the situation under control, we know what direction to take, or our past experiences give us an advantage in solving our problems. However Proverbs 14:12 informs and teaches us differently. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Why should we not rely on our own understanding? Because sometimes (often) the way we choose looks like the right and best way to go, but after the decision has been made we find that the decision has resulted in destruction and failure.
There is only one “right way.” That way is given by God through the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us to righteousness, success, and avenues that are pleasing to Him. Other “ways” may look promising and rewarding but they will yield a completely different result. The “right way” may be the road less traveled but that does not mean the most popular decisions are the best decisions.
As I was reminded by the Holy Spirit as a result of my recent trip, we should always ask and seek God for understanding and direction. After all, He is the Omniscient (all knowing) One. He knows everything - there is nothing, absolutely nothing He does not know. I’m reminded and challenged to always choose the “right way.” I’m reminding and challenging you to do the same. it.
1 Kings 17:1-16
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe[a] in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” 5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
I want to share with you some insights about God’s commanded provision. I don’t want to just tell you that God will provide, but I want you to know and be absolutely sure that God cannot and will not provide for you unless He commands it. I want to inform you that God cannot and will not provide for and sustain you in difficult times unless He allows (permits) difficult times to come. God cannot and will not bring you through without testing your faith.
I also want you to know that God uses others to bless you and make things happen for you. I really want you to know that what you make happen for others (and particularly the man or woman of God) He, (God) makes happen for you.
So, we see in these verses that God orchestrated a drought, a difficult time of little, and then no rain. This meant no water to drink or food to eat. This drought lasted for three and a half years (see Luke 4:25). Verse four tells us God commanded the ravens to feed Elijah by the brook. Verse six tells us the ravens brought Elijah provision day and night - literally giving him enough food to sustain him day by day. When the brook dried up, God spoke to Elijah (verses 8-9) and told him to go to Zarephath because He had commanded a widow woman to sustain him. It was impossible for the widow woman to ignore or reject Elijah’s request. She had no choice in the matter because God had commanded it. God used her as part of the process to provide for Elijah and sustain him.
Let’s pay particular attention to the fact that on both occasions - at the brook and in Zarephath, Elijah had to go where God had provided food. God can and will lead you to a place of spiritual (and physical) provision and He will use people you would never think He would use to get the job done.
Notice in verse 15 that the bible says the widow woman did according to what the man of God said and as a result she and her house did eat for many days. The oil flowed and the meal multiplied in the midst and time of lack. Not only did God provide for Elijah. He also provided for the widow woman and her son. Not only did He do it for them but He has provided and will continue to provide for me. He has provided and will continue to provide for you.
It may look dark and grim right now. Maybe what was once your stockpile is now your “next to nothing.” Maybe your brook has dried up. Maybe you have only a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. It only takes a second for God to command provision and sustenance on your behalf. You don’t know what raven God will use. You don’t know what ram in the bush God has for you. You don’t know what widow woman God will command in your favor. Keep your eyes and ears open. Go where God says to go. Do what God says to do. Say what God tells you to say. When He commands something, the wheels of reason roll off the scene and the wheels of miracles come into the picture. Your sack of lack becomes your box of good and plenty. When El Shaddai, the God of more than enough is in control, no good thing is withheld from you. Get up, live, breathe and walk in God’s commanded provision.
ENDURANCE FOR THE CROWN
Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 2-3)
One of the biggest misconceptions about our spiritual journey with Christ is that once we accept Him as Lord we will be problem-free. After all, Christ will give us victory in every situation, right? He will protect us from all evil and harm, right?
Something that I’ve learned over the years is that God is a God of balance. We are not incorrect in believing that God gives us victory. We are not incorrect in believing that He will protect us from all evil and harm. He does protect us and give us victory throughout this journey. But it is also true that God proves Himself to us through the struggles we face.
We must and will experience difficult times. We will have struggles of varying kinds. We will cry out to our Father when we feel that we are sinking. But those are the times when He proves Himself to us. But not only that, we must prove ourselves to God by the challenges we face.
James, says just that. He wrote his letter to the Jewish believers who had been scattered to different places probably because of the persecution in Jerusalem. James acknowledged the difficulties that they were facing and encouraged them to be strong and to keep their eyes on Christ.
He tells them that they should look at their struggles as an opportunity for great joy. Why? Because when our faith is tested we have an opportunity to grow endurance. If we aren’t tested and challenged by our circumstances, we won’t obtain the endurance that is needed for spiritual growth and maturity. He’s telling believers that they are on their way to a destination, and there’s something we must achieve in the process. We are looking ahead for something greater than what we see and experience now.
You see, endurance builds character. When we develop endurance, we are not swerved from our deliberate purpose and loyalty to our faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings. We persist in the face of all opposition. He makes this point in the following verses.
Dear brothers and sisters,[c] be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7-8).
For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. (James 5:10-11)
James is telling us in these verses that while we wait for the Lord’s return, we must endure some struggles. We will have some pain. But these verses are not passive. We don’t just sit back and do nothing until the Lord returns. We are building, growing, looking ahead. He first uses the farmer as an example. The farmer plants at certain times, looking for the rains to come so they will have the harvest they desire. They are working the land, doing what’s necessary to prepare for the harvest. The rains come in the fall and spring which is needed for the harvest. But the harvest is the focus.
Then he reminds us of the suffering of the prophets. He says we admire them by giving them great honor because they did not give up when they faced their struggles. He even talked about Job never giving up. He said the Lord was kind to him in the end for He is full of tenderness and mercy.
So, my brothers and sisters, let’s endure whatever comes our way. Let’s purpose in our minds that we will never give up, or give in, or give out. Why? Because there is a crown waiting for us ahead.
It Starts With the Mind
Have you ever wondered what the mind has to do with our relationship with our Father? What is the mind? How does the mind control our behavior and thoughts? Scripture teaches us the impact that our minds have on our ability and willingness to do or not do the will of God. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that if our minds are blind, we cannot believe the gospel. “If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
Our minds are not just our brain, conscious thoughts, or our intellect. It is a thought process that starts with our spirit and is followed by our actions.
The New Testament uses 11 different words that are translated as “mind”, but each means something a little different. For example, Matthew 22:37 reads “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind”. The word mind in this verse is “dianoia” which means willpower or volition, yet it was simply translated “mind”. The Old Testament gives us more clarity. Mind was translated from three Hebrew words, reins, kidneys, and spirit.
Reins control, lead, and direct action. A rider uses reins to guide a horse to make it do certain things. Our minds can guide us in a way to do the actions God wants us to do – obedience. Or just like some horses that are stubborn and willful, and pull and fight against the reigns to go another way, our minds can take us in the opposite direction away from God.
The second Hebrew word for mind is “kidneys”. Our kidneys serve two major functions: to filter out and eliminate all the debris, waste and filth from our blood; and control and regulate the amount of blood flow into our bodies. So, it is with our minds. We use our minds to get rid of our negative thoughts – unforgiveness, resentments, etc., and we decide who will control or regulate our lives- the Holy Spirit or Satan.
The third Hebrew word for mind is “spirit”. Our spirit is the core of our being and is separate from our brain. It has a continuing existence, unlike the brain. Our mind creates the thoughts of our hearts, and what leads to certain actions in our lives. However, there is an unregenerate spirit and a regenerate spirit. If we are born again, our spirit connects with the Spirit of God. We can now know God, and do His desired will. The unregenerate spirit has no power to connect with and thus goes against all that God desires. And as Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, they do not have the ability nor willingness to do the will of God.
The choice is ours. Do we choose to let God lead our lives through the blood of His Son Jesus, or follow another spirit that offers us no hope and fulfillment for our lives? Do we choose to have the mind of Christ, or follow the god of this world? Do we choose to be led by the Spirit of God or by our natural inclinations? Do we choose to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can do the acceptable and complete will of God; or do we choose to be conformed to the world? (Romans 12:2) Do we choose to put off the old man and its corruption; or do we renew the spirit of our mind and put on the new nature of Christ? (Ephesians 4:22-24)
My brothers and sisters, I encourage us to be more “mindful” of our relationship with Christ. Christ didn’t die for us to live mediocre lives as we go about calling ourselves “Believers”. He wants us to live a completely transformed life being connected with and led by His Spirit.
“For God so (greatly) loved and dearly prized the world, that He (even) gave His (one and) only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him (as Savior) shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world (that is, to initiate the final judgement of the world), but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17, Amplified Bible).
Often, we see, hear, or read John 3:16. But verse 17 does not get as much attention. The verse specifically tells the reason (purpose) the Son came to earth in human form. It tells why He did not come and also why He did come. The thought to be understood is that God did not send Christ to “condemn” the world. The word “condemn” means to express complete disapproval of, typically in public; to censure or to sentence someone to a particular punishment, especially death (Oxford Languages Dictionary).
Once we understand why God sent His Son, then we can believe the “why” and accept the “work” that was completed by the Son’s coming to the earth. When this process of understanding and acceptance is completed, the following applies: “Therefore there is now no condemnation (no guilty verdict, no punishment) for those who are in Christ Jesus (who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior)” (Romans8:1, Amplified Bible).
After accepting God’s gift of salvation through His Only Begotten Son, the verdict or stain of condemnation no longer exists. There is no guilty verdict or punishment for those who have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. So, the purpose for Christ’s coming was not to express disapproval or punish mankind. The latter part of verse 17 tells us the reason God did send His Son to the earth. That is, that the world might be saved through Him. God wanted the world saved because He (God) so loved the world (His creation). Verse 16 tells us that He “so loved” the world that he did not want the world to be without a “Savior.”
Born again believers are in the class of blood-washed members of the family of God. We should not live in fear by thinking “am I good enough to be a member of the royal priesthood? Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. God’s purpose for sending His Son was fulfilled once Christ resurrected with all power. That finished work put the next move on mankind. If you have accepted that finished work through faith by confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart (Romans 10:9-10) you have been filed in the permanent category of “no condemnation.”
Why have I shared this thought/teaching? It’s because once we fully understand why Christ came and accept the reason for His coming, we can live a more productive spiritual life – a life without worry of whether we are good enough or will we “make it to heaven.” We can live a life that’s pleasing to God and serves as witness that all can be saved without fear of condemnation.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called’’ (Ephesians 4:1)
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10)
“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory”
(1 Thessalonians 2:12)
Due to current challenges and issues facing the world, I am revisiting a topic I shared several months ago. These challenges and issues have become more aggressive during the past few months.
Every time I hear the phrase “walk worthy” I’m reminded to represent. To walk worthy of the Lord means to live a life that presents and represents Christ. It’s a challenge of a few words but enormous responsibility.
In the books of Ephesians and Colossians, the apostle Paul writes from a Roman jail to the church at Ephesus, the Colossian Christians, and other churches of Asia Minor. In Thessalonians, he is writing from and during his long stay at Corinth. His message to all is emphatic and to the point: Continue to live and walk in a fashion that represents Christ. He had received reports that believers were “backsliding” to beliefs and practices they entertained before becoming Christians. As a result, their lifestyles (including worship) were looking more like walks of non-believers rather than walks of believers.
Paul’s rebuke and challenge to the early Christian churches apply to current-day believers. We are encouraged to live our daily lives in ways that are pleasing to God and to be fruitful (effective) in all we do. When others see us and/or talk to us, they should see Christ. We have been called to live in ways that reflect God’s goodness, compassion, and love. Our “worthy walk” is a daily vocation that requires dedication and commitment. We must be focused and prepared at all times to present Jesus to those who don’t know Him as Lord and Savior.
Certainly, there are many distractions that can hinder us from allowing our light to shine so that others will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (“Matthew 5:16”). Hence, all the more reason to be reminded to stay focused and “on point” in our walk and lifestyle so that we will be victorious in winning souls to the kingdom. Remember, walking worthy is a vocation from God. He has called and equipped us (through the Holy Spirit) to live in ways that reflect holiness. No, it is not always easy. Yes, it can be done. We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Walk worthy.
The Power of Intercessory Prayer
Oftentimes we don’t realize the impact of our prayers when we pray on behalf of someone else or “intercede” for them. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he wrote “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
In both the Old and New Testaments prayers of intercession are prominent - even those that impact nature. Elijah prayed for it not to rain, and for three years there was no rain. James reminds us of this even as he encourages us to pray for one another. “Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops” (James 5:17-18).
Moses was one who constantly interceded with God on behalf of the people. He interceded for his sister Miriam when she, along with Aaron spoke against him and she was struck with leprosy. (Numbers 12:13). He prayed on behalf of the people after they complained against God so much, He sent snakes into their camp that bit and killed many. (Numbers 21:6). Moses again interceded to God to preserve the life of the Israelites when the twelve spies returned from scouting out the land and ten scouts convinced the people there was no chance they could possess the land. Instead, they wanted to choose a leader and return to Egypt. They complained against God all night and so intensely that He was ready to destroy them. (Numbers 14:1-25).
It doesn’t matter if we intercede on behalf of one or many, we must intercede. The early believers prayed for the release of Peter from jail. Scripture says that while he was in jail, the church prayed earnestly to God for his release. God released him and led him out of the prison by an angel. (Acts 12:5-11).
Abraham interceded for the city of Sodom for his nephew Lot. God was ready to destroy the city because of its constant wickedness and sin. Abraham did not want his nephew to be destroyed with the wicked. So, he interceded and asked to preserve the city if there were ten righteous people. God assured him that he would not destroy it if he could find ten righteous people. We know the end. God destroyed the city, but he did preserve the life of Lot and his family by leading them out of the city by the hand of two angels. Scripture tells us “But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain” (Genesis 19:29).
What is my point in all this? Brothers and sisters, let’s use the power that God gave us to change our circumstances and the lives of others. God hears the prayers of the righteous. “The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power” (James 5:16).
Cast Your Care
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
How often have we heard or used the phrases “I don’t care, who cares, or no one cares?” Probably more often than we think. Merriam - Webster Dictionary defines “care” as a suffering of mind or a disquieted state of mixed uncertainty, apprehension, and responsibility. When this level of concern and worry occurs our minds and emotions are not at ease.
In 1 Peter 5:6-7, Peter addressed his readers to be subject (responsible to and supporting of) one another. He challenged them to humble themselves under God’s hand and to cast all their cares on Him because He cares for them. In mentioning “their cares” he is referring to their suffering of the mind or disquieted state of mixed uncertainty defined in the Merriam – Webster Dictionary. In mentioning “God’s care” he is referring to God’s love, attention, and provision.
There are two particular points I want to emphasize here. The first is that the readers are encouraged to “humble” themselves in order that they may be exalted (verse 6). The second point is that the readers are encouraged to “cast, throw, get rid of” their heavyweight. What’s so important about this? We must humble ourselves to the point of admitting that we are not strong enough to carry the stress and worries of this world. We must humble ourselves to the point of believing and accepting the fact that God is so concerned about our well-being that He does not want us to carry any unnecessary weight. He wants us to be free of every burden.
Surely we must trust God to the point of knowing that no problem is too difficult for Him to handle. As the saying goes, “from the top to the bottom, God can handle our problems.” However, we must allow God to take control of the stressful situations in our lives by releasing them to Him. He can’t (and won’t) handle what we are not willing to let go. Hence, “let go and let God.” Peter instructs his readers to “cast or throw off” their burdens and distractions. That implies to get rid of them with intense determination and force rather than just hoping God will work them out. Yes, be emphatic and deliberate about it.
Are you in a time of uncertainty, stress, discomfort or worry? I remind you of what the apostle Peter instructed his readers to do – simply cast your care!