2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (New International Version)
6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The apostle Paul spoke of a “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7. He called it “a messenger of Satan” that had a purpose of “torment.” Many explanations have been put forward, but whether Paul is referring to a physical, spiritual, or emotional affliction—or something else entirely—has never been answered with satisfaction. Since he was not talking of a literal thorn, he must have been speaking metaphorically. Some of the more popular theories of the thorn’s interpretation include temptation, a chronic eye problem, malaria, migraines, epilepsy, and a speech disability. Some even say that the thorn refers to a person, such as Alexander the coppersmith, who did Paul “a great deal of harm” (2 Timothy 4:14). No one can say for sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but it was a source of real pain in the apostle’s life. (https://www.gotquestions.org/Paul-thorn-flesh.html)
Pauls’ reason for the thorn in his flesh was to keep him humble. He experienced the supernatural on the Damascus road and was called and commissioned by God to an extraordinary ministry. Certainly, he needed something to remind him that he had not “arrived” to the place of having it all together spiritually. In his quest to be relieved of this “thorn in the flesh” God informed/reminded him that His (God’s) grace was sufficient to keep him even though the “thorn” would not be removed.
The Holy Spirit has recently dealt with me about God’s grace being sufficient as I deal with issues and challenges in my life. Yes, I have felt that if I could just conquer or be victorious in this one area everything would be fine. But God responded by reminding me that without the issues and challenges I would not seek after Him as I do. He reminded me that the balance and leveling (even scale) of my spiritual walk exists because of His sufficient grace.
My shortcomings and challenges cause me not only to continue seeking Him but also to experience His grace - divine favor, love, and clemency. His sufficient grace causes me to realize even more that He loves me and cares for me no matter what issue or challenge I deal with on a daily basis. The “thorn in my flesh” will never outweigh or overshadow God’s sufficient grace. But it will keep me humble, steadfast, and prayerful as I strive to be more Christlike each and every day.
May you also consider the thorn in your flesh as an opportunity to recognize and experience God’s sufficient grace. Remember, just like Paul, when you are weak, then you are strong.
The Invisible God
“In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart. Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)
One of the hardest things for humans to understand is that there are two realities. One is the visible or physical reality, and the other is the invisible or unseen reality. Not only are we physical creatures, but we are also spiritual creatures. The problem is that we put all of our trust and confidence in the physical - those things we can see, feel, hear, touch, etc. We have bought into the world system’s false truth that “seeing is believing”. This means that if we can see it, then it’s real, but if we can’t see something then it’s not real. We virtually ignore our other reality, the invisible, unseen one.
Scripture teaches us that we serve an invisible God who lives in an invisible realm but allows us to experience his invisible qualities in the visible realm. In other words, we can’t see Him, but we can experience Him by what He has revealed to us in the physical realm. The visible helps us to understand our God, who is invisible. He reveals Himself to us through His creation.
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome says that in every human heart the truth of God is instinctively known. This means that every human knows that God exists. It is embedded in our hearts and has been proven by the things we see and experience in the visible reality. So, there is no excuse for not acknowledging the invisible God.
The Samaritan woman was so focused on the physical reality. She argued with Jesus about the place to worship God. Jesus drew her attention to the invisible. She asked Him this question, “Why do our fathers worship God on this nearby mountain,[j] but your people teach that Jerusalem is the place where we must worship. Who is right?” (John 4: 20) Jesus’ response was not what she was expecting.
He said, “Believe me, dear woman, the time has come when you will worship the Father neither on a mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in your heart. … From now on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with a right heart. For God is a Spirit and he longs to have sincere worshipers who adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21, 23-24)
Part of Christ’s ministry was to refocus the attention of the people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. These two kingdoms are opposed to each other. Let’s follow Christ’s example of the kingdom of light. He went about doing good. When we help those in need, stand up for what is right and good, and love one another, we are living by the attributes of the invisible God.
Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of darkness. Evil, hatred, death, and destruction are the attributes of his kingdom. John writes “Anyone can say, “I love God,” yet have hatred toward another believer. This makes him a phony, because if you don’t love a brother or sister, whom you can see, how can you truly love God, whom you can’t see?” (1 John 4:20)
The disciples saw Christ go back to His Father. They watched as He disappeared into the clouds, to an invisible realm. He promised us that we would come to where He was at the appointed time. This promise assures us that we have another reality to experience. An invisible one.
“…Because of this, my praises rise to the King of all the universe who is indestructible, invisible, and full of glory, the only God who is worthy of the highest honors throughout all of time and throughout the eternity of eternities! Amen!” (1 Timothy 1: 17)
All scriptures are from the Passion Translation
Let’s Start With Wisdom!
How does a man become wise? The first step is to trust and reverence the Lord! (Proverbs 1:7)
For the reverence and fear of God are basic to all wisdom. Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
And this is what he says to all mankind: ‘Look, to fear the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’” (Job 28:28)
How can men be wise? The only way to begin is by reverence for God. For growth in wisdom comes from obeying his laws. Praise his name forever. (Psalms 111:10)
The above scriptures give us instructions on how to be wise. Wisdom comes through knowing God. In Hebrew, the most common word for wisdom is “chakem.” Chakem is wisdom that comes from joining ourselves with God and allowing Him to fill us with his hidden knowledge. It comes through an intimate relationship with God. It’s the same word used to describe the sexual relationship between a husband and wife.
Another word for wisdom is “yida” or “yada.” In Greek, this word is “ginosko,” which means knowing. It is wisdom or knowledge that comes from a love relationship as well as a business relationship. It may be one or the other or both.
Finally, there is “shacal.” This word is wisdom that comes from a business relationship but does not have any intimacy attached.
As believers, we must know God’s thoughts, His character, His desires. Too many of us think that if we “do” acts of kindness, God is pleased. This thinking is a trap. Jesus taught us just because one may sound righteous doesn’t mean they are righteous. He said that many would come to Him saying they did many wonderful works in His name. But He will respond that He never knew “chakem” them. (Mt. 7:21-23).
Though this may seem harsh, Jesus was saying they missed the main objective. It’s not what they did, but it was their motive. Was it done out of love and desire for Him? Was it done to please Him? If not, then doing good works doesn’t matter.
Paul reminds us that our good works do not save us. They are nice to do. But that doesn’t necessarily please God. We can do good works and still not have an intimate relationship with Him. How? Because good works are good works. God created the good works that we do. But good works only mean something when we have an intimate relationship with Him because we do them as an act of worship. (Eph. 2:8-10).
The first instruction God gave to Moses to teach the Israelites was that they love the Lord their God with all their hearts, all their minds, and all their strength “chakem.” After that, they were to follow His commandments or instructions, and they would be successful and prosperous. (Deut. 6:4-6) Loving God with every part of our being is the wisdom that God desires.
One of the best ways for us to foster intimacy with God is through His Word. Jesus said, if you love me, you will obey My commandments. How can we develop God’s character and exercise wisdom if we don’t know Him? The Hebrew rendering gives a slightly different perspective to this truth. “And by this, we may be sure we have an intimate relationship with Him if we preserve His directions.”
We show our love to our Father by committing ourselves to Him through obedience to His instructions. Why? Because that’s one way God reveals Himself to us. If we want a relationship with God, we must have a relationship with His Word.
In this way, we join ourselves to Him. I don’t know about you, but I want to be intimate with the one who created me, died for me, and gave me His Spirit. I desire to live a life that pleases my Father. Not because someone told me, but because I have been intimately acquainted with Him myself. How about you? Do you want to know God? Let’s start with wisdom!
Source: (Chaim & Laura Benorah – Biblical Word Studies)
The Benefit of Submitting and Resisting
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7, KJV).
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV).
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all (Psalm 34:19 KJV).
The acts of submitting and resisting may not sound like actions that lead to victory. However, these acts have a definite benefit when adhered to and carried out according to God’s Word.
In addressing earthly and heavenly wisdom, James gives instruction to do two things: submit yourself to God (His authority) and resist (stand firm against) the devil. So many times I have heard it said to simply resist the devil and he will flee from you. But it is vitally important to read, understand, and exercise the first part of that verse - submit yourself to the will, the way, and the Word of God.
Resisting carries the picture of being strong and focused enough to stand against what we refuse to believe or accept. But if you don’t first yield and submit yourself to God through obedience you will not have the power and fortitude to stand firm when Satan attacks. But once you have properly submitted and resisted, then Satan has to run from you. God has ordained it to be so if the equation of submitting and resisting is put into and remains in action. Your spiritual lifestyle, commitment, and obedience are the catalysts for making the devil flee - for a season.
It is also important to understand that Satan is always busy doing what he is known to do: steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He is always fulfilling the description of his mode of operating. In contrast, notice what Christ said about His purpose. He provides and maintains life for His sheep - the sheep Satan is set on destroying. By submitting and resisting, you thwart the intended result of the enemy. Your obedience causes him to be defeated in his mission and he must and will retreat in defeat.
Finally, you (as a child of God) must remember you will experience many afflictions during this earthly life. An “affliction” may be any test, trial, or tribulation. Psalm 34:19 says you will have many afflictions - but the Lord will deliver you or release you from each and every one of them. Certainly you can find comfort in distress and peace in the storm if you believe what the Word of God says.
I believe my acts of submitting and resisting far outweigh any success Satan could have in destroying my life. I thank God for each and every opportunity to submit to His Will, His Way, and His Word. This behavior allows me to resist and stand firm against Satan. When I do that, he has no choice but to flee.
No Other Name
Acts 4:8-10, 12.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that people who aren’t spiritual couldn’t receive spiritual truths from God’s Spirit because it all sounds foolish. They can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. (1Cor. 2:14)
It defies all logic to be healed by the name of someone believed to be dead but whose followers insist He is alive. There are no other religious leaders who have made this claim but Jesus. Plus, there is the testimony of many witnesses to corroborate this fact. Additionally, to say of all religions, no other person has the power to save humanity but Jesus. To many, this is nonsense!
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “For, you see, there is one God, and also one mediator between God and humans, King Jesus, Himself a human being. He gave Himself as a ransom for all, and this was testified when the time was right.” (1 Tim 2:5-6)
To the church at Philippi, Paul wrote, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-10)
Before His death, Jesus told his disciples, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! (John 14:13-14)
This song reminds me of this truth: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; there’s just something about that name. Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all Heaven and earth proclaim. Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away, But there’s something about that name.”
Brothers and sisters, there is no other name!
Stay On Point
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58, KJV).
Have you ever heard something you were unfamiliar with but it seemed reasonable at the time so you accepted it, but later began to question your decision? Maybe you began to waiver in what you had previously accepted and even reached the point of doubting or rejecting it. Maybe you eventually reached the point of feeling you were stupid or silly to believe such a thing.
In 1 Corinthians 15 (I suggest you read the entire chapter) Paul stressed the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its relevance to the core of Christianity. He rebuked the believers in Corinth by saying if Jesus did not resurrect after the crucifixion, then there is no reason or point in the Christian faith ( verses 12-19). This was Paul’s message and stern warning because the church at Corinth had begun to waiver in its belief and Christian walk. He not only thought it was necessary to rebuke them but also to remind and reeducate them of what they had learned, accepted, and lived previously. That teaching and message was that believing and accepting the resurrection of Christ was the foundation, the building block of inheriting eternal life. If they rejected the resurrection of Christ, they also rejected life after death and eternal life.
In the 58th verse he challenges them to “stay on point” and to be “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Steadfast means to be constant and unwavering. To abound means to increase and/or overflow. The Corinthian church was charged with going back and remembering what they had first been taught. Then they were to rededicate themselves to that commitment, and finally stay the course and do more and greater works for the Lord.
Believers have so many issues to distract us from doing what God has commanded and commissioned them to do - win souls to the kingdom. But we cannot be effective in doing this if our focus shifts from Him, Who He is, and what He has called and empowered us to do. Let’s not let politics, racism, the economy, climate change or anything else cause us to shift, neglect or even worse, reject what we have been called to do. Join with me in being determined to stay on point.
What’s on Your Mind?
Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your laws. (Psalms 119:97 & 99)
My husband often asks me the question “What are you thinking about?” He wants to know what’s on my mind. It’s usually something I have to think about at that moment because I have a busy mind. My mind is like a continuous movie. Rarely does it stop at just one thing. It goes from scene to scene, from one thing to the next.
Yet the Psalmist says that he thinks about the Lord’s instructions all day long. He says he’s always thinking about the laws of God. As much as we want to believe and even desire to stay focused on God, it is quite a challenge. But maybe if we gave God’s word the attention it deserves, we would see greater things happen for us at a quicker pace.
I don’t doubt that many of us love God. We spend time meditating in the scriptures. But the true test of our love for Him is how we continue our days. Once we have our quiet moments, do we just go about our daily business? Or do we continue to meditate on the word, still seeking more revelation, more insight, more truth? Are we truly following what God has revealed to us throughout the day? Is the Word of God truly guiding us?
The Psalmist says that thinking about God’s instructions has given him more insight than his teachers! Later, he says he’s even wiser than his elders because he has kept God’s commandments. (Psalms 119:100) Does our time thinking about the scriptures start and then stop? Or is the word always on our minds?
There are many benefits we gain from keeping God’s word on our minds. One of the greatest benefits is wisdom. We don’t get the wisdom of God or have the mind of Christ without knowing the word of God. Wisdom carries us and makes us successful. It shows us how to live lives that please our Father.
His word is a source of hope giving us the incentive to obey His commands. God’s word teaches us to see the value of his instructions and to hate everything that is not true. The psalmist says, “The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever. (Psalms 119:160) His word gives us discernment, and when we obey God’s commands, we find joy. We learn that His laws are not a burden, but instead, give us life. We can’t put a price on the life-giving word of God.
We should always pray for a heart and mind to understand God’s instructions and to put them into practice. As you read these few words, I want you to seriously consider what’s on your mind.
It’s Time to Choose
“And if it seems evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose ye this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15)
Decisions, decisions! Yes, we are faced daily with making decisions. Some are serious enough to be life-changing and others can be made in a second (or two). Really, a lot of the decisions we make are results of what makes us feel good or could possibly improve our status in life. Sometimes the decisions we make will determine the direction and/or outcome of those we love. Nonetheless, we will never be free of making decisions as long as we occupy space on this earth.
In Joshua 24, the tribes of Israel were called to Shechem. Joshua told the people to decide if they would serve other gods, specifically the gods beyond the Euphrates that Abraham’s father served, the gods of Egypt, or the gods of the Amorites. He then made a distinct and profound statement - “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Notice that Joshua not only brought the people to a “place of choosing” but he also informed them that he had also given consideration to the issue and decided that he and his house/family would serve the Lord - the Only true and wise God.
I find it interesting that Joshua was not challenging the people to do something he was not willing to do. As a leader, he set the standard by leading. No, he did not choose for them, but he used his position as a leader to act by bringing them to a place he had already occupied - the place of choosing.
I believe this is a place where we as individuals first, but also nations and the world, need to choose whom we will serve. In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah asked the question, “...how long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people answered him not a word.
Today is not a day to spend thinking about whom we will serve. We/you are at a point of choosing and declaring. Only then can we move across the checkerboard of life and position ourselves as kings and joint heirs with Christ - if we choose wisely. If you have not already done so - right now (this moment) is the time to choose.
What Does the Lord Require?
The word “require” asks these questions: What is necessary for relief or supply? What is mandatory? What is required by rule?” What does God desire from me?
In the book of Deuteronomy Moses gave instructions to the people before they entered the land west of the Jordan. He reminded them of all the Lord had done for them. He reminded them of their failures along the way. He reminded them of what they had done to displease their God Who was Lord of lords and King of kings. And then He asked them this question. But he didn’t wait for them to give an answer. He gave them the answer as well.
“Now, Israelites, listen! What does the Lord your God really want from you? The Lord your God wants you to respect Him and do what He says. He wants you to love Him and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12 ERV).
To put it simply, God wants us to want Him. He wants us to put Him first. He wants us to recognize Who He is. He wants us to listen to what He says. He wants us to be mindful of Him at all times. This is what the Lord requires.
Later, God spoke through His prophet Micah. This same question was presented. This time God expanded His requirements to include our treatment of others. Not only were the people of Micah’s generation ignoring God. They were worshipping other gods. They were disobeying what He had spoken through His prophets. They were mistreating one another. They were lying to one another. They were using false weights to cheat each other in their business dealings. There was no justice in the land. God asked and answered the question through Micah the prophet. “He has showed you O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 AMP).
When Jesus came on the scene, the question presented to Him at different times was “What is the greatest commandment in the law? Sometimes He gave an answer. Sometimes He left it up to the person asking the question to state his thoughts. Sometimes He gave a parable in answer to the question. But His answer was always the same. Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: People of Israel, listen! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second most important command is this: Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself. These two commands are the most important” (Mark 12:29-31).
What does the Lord require? He wants us to love Him, obey Him, and love others as we love ourselves. This is what He really wants. If we do this, we position ourselves for the blessings and favor of our God. This is what the Lord requires.
Keep Your Vows
Humans like to talk. We like to be heard. But sometimes our words get us in trouble. Especially when we make vows or promises to God and fail to keep them. In Scripture, a vow was made with careful thought. Vows were binding. Breaking a vow was equal to lying to God. So, what is a vow? A vow is a solemn promise made to God to perform or to abstain from performing a certain thing.
God holds us accountable for our words. “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)
When we promise God something, He expects us to do what we say. After all, He keeps every promise He makes to us. We often make a vow or promise to God out of desperation. We promise Him that if He gets out of a circumstance we will do or act in a certain way going forward. But when He does deliver us we continue our business as usual. Scripture warns about this.
“When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth make you sin...” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6)
We don’t need to make rash or extravagant statements to prove the weight of our words either. We just need to be conscious of what we say and commit to it.
Jesus spoke these words. “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’[n] But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)
In his letter to the church, James wrote “But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned." (James 5:4)
You may be familiar with the phrase, “put up or shut up.” And the songwriter penned these words, “Let the life we live speak for us”. So, my brothers and sisters, let’s be mindful of our words. Above all, when we make a promise to our Father we should keep it. It’s for our good when we do.
Romans 1:13-16 (NLT) 13 I want you to know, dear brothers, that I planned to come many times before (but was prevented) so that I could work among you and see good results, just as I have among the other Gentile churches.[a] 14 For I owe a great debt to you and to everyone else, both to civilized people and uncivilized alike; yes, to the educated and uneducated alike. 15 So, to the fullest extent of my ability, I am ready to come also to you in Rome to preach God’s Good News. 16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is God’s powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven. This message was preached first to the Jews alone, but now everyone is invited to come to God in this same way.
Do you know people who are proud of who they are, what they have accomplished, how they feel about certain issues, or how they have influenced the lives of others? Are you such a person? Does this describe you? I’m not asking to insinuate or suggest that if this describes you, then you must be full of pride or conceited. I’m asking specifically so you will examine yourself to see if there is any “shame” in your spiritual beliefs.
In Romans 1:13-16, the apostle Paul wrote to the church (born again believers) in Rome to tell them he was anxious to come for a visit and serve among them just as he had done among other Gentile churches. Verse 15 tells us he was ready to come preach God’s good news (the gospel). In verse 16, he boldly confesses that he has “no shame” when it comes to sharing the good news, the gospel about Christ. He confesses that the gospel is God’s powerful method of bringing all who believe and receive it to heaven.
I remember many, many years ago when I was a newcomer to the family of God by way of accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I was not very bold about sharing my born again experience and being a witness to any audience that would listen. To be honest, I often felt it was easier for me to just be quiet and mind my own business. That sounds like being ashamed of who I was and of the message I should share.
I have come a long way from that way of feeling shy and ashamed. Now (and for quite some time) I can boldly say there is “no shame” when it comes to sharing and proclaiming the good news that Jesus saves. As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter this message invites anyone and everyone to come to God in the same way. The invitation reads the same for everyone. My hope and prayer is that everyone who has experienced new birth will live that experience without shame.
Pray Earnestly Part 3
“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16)
Earnest prayer - prayer that is sincere and simple is a prayer that God hears and answers. We don’t need to come to the Father trying to impress Him. He already knows us. He will give us our heart’s desire. He did it for Hannah, Samuel’s mother, for King Solomon, and he will do it for us.
Let’s look at another prayer from a man named Jabez. We are introduced to Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4. Here, the author is giving the genealogy of the tribe of Judah. It seems out of nowhere that Jabez gets special honor. There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. (1 Chronicles 4:10)
What was it about this man and his prayer? First, he was more honorable than any of his brothers. He respected God’s laws. Second, his mother named him Jabez because she had a difficult and painful birth. Third, he prayed to the God of Israel a sincere, specific, humble, and simple prayer. “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!”
He asked God to bless him and expand his territory. He asked God to be with him in all he did. And he asked for God’s protection - to keep him from all trouble and pain. Wow, just three things that cover so much! He wanted success, God’s presence, and peace. And you know what, scripture says God granted him his request.
I’ve often wondered how God answered Jabez. What did he accomplish in life? How did God protect him? How did God show Jabez that He was with him? Scripture leaves it to our imagination. All we know is that God did. He responded to the prayer that Jabez prayed. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Always.
As you pray your heartfelt prayers, remember that God hears you and will answer in the affirmative. The God we cannot see with our physical eyes is there to bless us and give us our heart’s desire. So, my brothers and sisters, let’s keep praying. Let’s keep calling on our God. He is our deliverer, our strong tower, our strength. God is. desire.
No one has greater love (nor stronger commitment) than to lay down his own life for his friends (John 15:13, Amplified Bible).
Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor, for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Amplified Bible).
I believe we all should take time to seek and find understanding in what it means to have true friendship. Certainly, there may be times when we feel we have only a few friends or no friends at all. There may be times when we question whether the friends we do have are really true, dedicated, and committed to being with us through tough and testing times.
As words of encouragement to myself and also I hope to you, let’s draw our attention to what God’s Word says about friendship and why it is necessary and important. Remember, the directions and solutions to all of our challenges and opportunities are in His Word and are quite effective if we will understand and apply them.
John 15:13 tells us “No one has greater love (nor stronger commitment) than to lay down his own life for his friends,” (Amplified Bible). Not only do we read about the greatness (strength) of God’s love but also the commitment of God’s love. His strength and commitment gives way and yields to Him laying down His life through the sacrifice of His Only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. As the song reminds us, “What love the Father has for me; the Father gave His Son, the Son gave His life, that I might have a right to the tree of life.” Yes, we as friends of Christ can inherit eternal life when we accept His act of friendship - laying down His life so my life and your life can be picked up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 informs us that “Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor, for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up,” (Amplified Bible). Here we read the benefit of having someone to help and assist us in times of distress. True friends are available and willing to help when you are going through tough times. True friends are around to help carry you and the load when the weight is too heavy and difficult to bear alone.
Let’s not desire friends so that we can have someone with whom we can celebrate and visit or socialize. Ask God to send you or direct you to people with whom you can develop a true and lasting friendship. Ask God for friends who love Him, serve Him and trust Him. As a result of their relationship and fellowship with Him, they will be sincere, trustworthy, and loving in their relationship and fellowship with you. Remember, “wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and in all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7 KJV). Be wise and understand friendship. service.
Pray Earnestly Part 2 “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16)
Solomon was just nineteen years old when he became king over a nation. This was no small task for a young man. His father David, was loved by the people. But he was young and inexperienced. How could he be the king his father was? Before he died, he gave Solomon the key to success. He told him to follow God. These were his parting words to him in front of the entire nation of Israel.
“So now, with God as our witness, and in the sight of all Israel—the Lord’s assembly—I give you this charge. Be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, so that you may continue to possess this good land and leave it to your children as a permanent inheritance. And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. (1 Chronicles 28:8-9)
At first, Solomon seemed to take these last rites from his father to heart. After David’s death, he called all the leaders together...anyone who had a position...political leaders, judges, army leaders, and clan leaders to Gibeon to worship the God of Israel. (2 Chronicles 1:2-3) That very night God asked Solomon what he wanted and He would give it to Him. Solomon responded with these words.
“You showed great and faithful love to David, my father, and now you have made me king in his place. O Lord God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:8-10)
This prayer touched God’s heart. God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people— I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!” (2 Chronicles 1:11-12)
When we pray earnestly...in a purposeful sincere way. When our prayer is not haphazard or done using meaningless repetition or many words, God answers. Most times He responds in a way that is even greater than we thought or asked. Yes, God gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for, but He also gave him untold wealth. All because Solomon prayed earnestly. He was specific and sincere.
If Solomon had continued on this path of seeking God as David his father instructed him, there’s no telling how much God would have blessed him. But he did not heed his father’s warning. “If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” Solomon in his old age turned his back on God. He married many foreign women and worshipped their gods. God warned him twice about his actions, but he did not take heed. Consequently, God rejected him.
Solomon inherited a strong united kingdom. When he died, the kingdom was divided and weak. Because of his choice to turn away from the God of his father, he did not leave his descendants the land to inherit. He stopped believing in the God of his father. He no longer sought Him.
But when he did. When he prayed earnestly, God gave him success. Brothers and sisters, when we pray earnestly God is able (and willing) to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
Let us remember to pray earnestly. about it.
4 Adam[a] made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth[c] a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (NIV).
How often do we have a conversation about dealing with anger? The truth be told, there have been (and always will be) situations and circumstances that cause us to become angry. There will always be times in this earthly life when someone will say or do something that sets us off. Likewise, whether we care to admit it or not, there are times when we are the cause of moving someone to the point of being angry.
In the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he writes, “In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26, NIV). Notice what he did not say. He did not say “don’t be angry.” The instruction he gave was not to let the sun go down, or the day end while you are still angry. We are to address our anger, deal with it, and release it as soon as possible. Holding on to anger leads to danger.
Cain had to pay an extremely high price for not dealing with and releasing his anger in the way God’s Word instructs us to do so. In Genesis 4:1-12 we read where his anger was a result of not accepting his responsibility of offering his best to God. His anger was also a result of jealousy. Before his act of murder, God told him that if he did was right his gift would be accepted. Rather than fix the problem, Cain decided to give in to “anger danger” and murder his brother. As a result, he would have to work or till the ground with no results, no crops. In other words, he would labor with nothing to show for it. He would travel from place to place on the earth but never realize the fruit of his labor.
How can we avoid such an awful pitfall? We can avoid it by admitting our anger and not allowing it to ride over to sin. We must deal with it and follow God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit to release it so we won’t be bound by its consequences. There always has been and forever will be an extremely high price to pay for sin - including the sin of succumbing to “anger danger."
We often use the word believe as we talk and witness to others about Christ. We read in the scriptures where Christ over and over again exhorted not only his disciples but to everyone who believed in God to believe in the one He sent. “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29) The word believe is a verb. It is an action word. That means we have to do something.
A good definition of the word believe is from dictionary.com. “To have confidence in the truth, the existence or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so. Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.”
Another definition comes from the KJV dictionary. “To credit upon the authority or testimony of another; to be persuaded of the truth of something upon the declaration of another, or upon evidence furnished by reasons, arguments, and deductions of the mind, or by other circumstances, than personal knowledge.”
Christ’s entire ministry was to demonstrate the truth of His testimony about Himself. That testimony required a response in agreement from those whom He taught. It requires the same for us today. To believe in Christ means that we have to have full confidence in what He said about Himself.
Here are some things he said about Himself: “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” John 6:24
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12
“But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.” John 6:36-38
Over and over again, Christ appealed to the people to believe in Him - to trust in Him. That appeal is still going forth today by those who have been convinced that what He said is true. We are further persuaded by the miracles He performed. The greatest miracle is His resurrection.
We believe that the writers of the scriptures are telling us the truth about Christ even though we personally have no proof. Yes, my brothers and sisters, from beginning to end we walk by faith, not by sight.
We are not only persuaded by the testimony of what others have said about Him but by the testimony of Christ Himself. We believe in the one the Father has sent. We continue this message of faith by persuading others to also believe.
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.
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.