The following are synopses of our weekly Bible Study Lessons.
“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
Luke 11:9-10 (KJV)
In this passage, Jesus conveys to us a model of strategic prayer. In this model are three principles:
1) Asking 2) Seeking 3) Knocking
Note that the word Ask is followed by Seek, which is tailed by Knock. Each word adds a more dynamic, forceful, and vigorous approach to your prayer for God’s help. This verse offers three powerful strategies for prayer, which will no doubt give your prayer life a boost.
We often think of these three principles as one, that when we pray we are to ask, seek and knock all in the same prayer. But in fact, asking God to supply a need may be all that is required for God to answer our prayer.
The word ask means “to desire, to call for.” Jesus said that we are to ask. And the asking must be done in anticipation of receiving. This speaks of faith. The asking phase of prayer highlights the ease of prayer. It underscores the eager willingness of God to respond to our petition.
Jabez asked God for four specific things; to Bless him, increase his territory, keep his hand upon him and keep him from evil. He used the power of his tongue, the power of words in faith, and God answered his request. 1 Chronicles 4: (KJV)
Specificity is crucial when petitioning God. Yes, we know that our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask, but he also wants us to be sure that we know by asking Him for what He already knows that we need.
In Mark 10:46- 52 (KJV), we read where blind Bartimaeus, sitting at the road side begging, called out to Jesus, Jesus heard his cry and asked him what did he want from him. Bartimaeus replied I want to see.
Jesus said, your faith has healed you.
Because Bartimaeus believed God for his miracle God granted his request. When you ask The Lord for a miracle, you must believe that He will, do what you have asked Him to do.
Ask and it shall be given!
“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that ask asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 (KJV)
Not all prayers are answered suddenly. In instances when you don’t receive an answer or you experience a sense of uneasiness, you may need to move your prayer efforts to the next level — Seeking.
Asking God to supply a need is the most common prayer strategy, however, asking God to supply our needs only, will not grow our prayer life.
Seeking God is a higher level of prayer. When we seek God we are endeavoring to discover higher heights and deeper depths in Him.
Our prayer is no longer about what we want or what we desire, rather we seek God for what His will is for us.
Seeking God is a much deeper strategy of prayer than asking alone. When we ask God to supply a need, we know exactly what it is that we are asking of Him.
But when we seek Him we discover glorious things and and unexpected blessings. Seeking God takes us to a level in heavenly places that we cannot reach through our prayers of supplication.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:12-13 (KJV)
Jesus assures us that if we seek Him we will find Him. You see my friends, the things of this world are blinding. We cannot see God because of the alluring gravitational pull of the evil one.
But when we seek Him in prayer, we activate his promise to us in 2 Chron. 7:14 (KJV)
“For If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Jesus assures us in our text that if we ‘Knock‘ the door will be opened to us . Matthew 7:7 (KJV). The third level of prayer engagement when facing resistance is knocking.
To repeatedly knock on someone’s door — God’s door — reflects one thing: you have confidence your knock will be answered. Knocking on His door suggests that we’re battling spiritual forces through a concentrated time of soul-searching, fasting, and focused prayers.
These disciplines are all part and parcel of warfare praying. They are not the arm-twisting behavior of Christians attempting to manipulate God. Such payers are not Biblical.
However, we are encouraged to travail in prayer, to knock upon Heaven’s door until the door is opened.
In His humanity, Jesus often fasted and went on private prayer retreats to discern the will of God. These times of prevailing prayer also provided Him with the needed strength to do the will of God.
Are you willing to engage God on that level? We are in a high-stakes spiritual war. We must see ourselves as soldiers in combat. Luxury and civilian-like living is not our posture. It’s vital that we take seriously the teachings of Jesus as it relates to prayer. God is willing to do His part. He’s willing to open His coffers and grant our requests. We must do our part. Knock and keep knocking until the door is opened to you! Amen.
Eight Qualities and Characteristics of a Born Again Christian
(1) A True Christian is Saved by Grace Through Faith In Jesus Christ and Not By Personal Merit or By Works (Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, Zest anyone should boast.)
We are not saved by keeping the law or by our own works. We are saved because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross who paid for all our sins. Salvation is therefore by Jesus Christ alone and a Christian must realize that his/her salvation is free. Salvation is a free gift for the Christian and through Christ alone. (Galatians 2:21 – I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain).
(2) Imitates God (Greek memtes follower) — (Ephesians 5:1 — Therefore be imitators of God as dear children). People in the world love role models. Some look to Hollywood for role models; some look to sportsmen for role models. But the Christian’s role model is Jesus.
When Jesus came to earth, He not only came to die for us, but He also came to set an example through His life on earth and through His teachings as to how we should practically live a life that is pleasing to God. Therefore the life that Jesus lived is the life that we should follow and imitate.
(3) Obeys The Lord – (John 14:15 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments”). Obedience to the will and word of God is important in the life of a true Christian. Jesus said that our love of Him is proved if when we obey Him. Therefore, God desires our obedience to His word. We cannot say we love God but yet follow values and philosophies that are contrary to His word. (Luke 6:46 — “But why do you cau Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”)
(4) A True Christian Does Not Conform To The World’s Standards — (Romans 12:2 — And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God).
The world has its own values; its own systems; and its own priorities that are totally contrary to the values and laws of God. The Lord expects our values as Christians to align with God’s ways and teachings.
When we become friends with the world and allow the values and philosophies of the world to influence our decisions, our lifestyle and our character, we automatically become enemies of God (James 4:4-5 — ” Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God’. A true Christian is therefore a friend of God and not a friend of the world.
(5) Exercises Power Over The Enemy — (Mark 16:17-18 — And these signs will follow those who believe: “In My name they wilt cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
God has given every believer the authority and power to overcome the world and the enemy. With the position and title of being a child of God, comes the authority to exercise the power that God has given you.
(6) Walks In Love — (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 — Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand au mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing).
When God sent His Begotten Son Jesus to die for our sins it was out of one motivation — His LOVE for us. God is motivated by love, because God is love.
(1 John 4:7-11 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another).
(7) A True Christian Bears Good Fruit — (Matthew 7:18-20 — A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.”
A true Christian will not live like a hypocrite; The Pharisees for example, were hypocrites because they did not walk the talk; they did not practice the law that they professed to believe in. A true Christian will display the values and character of God in word and deed.
(Galatians 5:22-25 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, sew-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit).
(8) And Glorifies Jesus Christ — (Colossians 3:23-25 — “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”
A Christian does not live for his church; he does not live for his pastor and he no longer lives for himself. However, a Christian lives for Jesus Christ because Jesus is Lord over his/her life.
Therefore, the life of a Christian should not be to impress men, but rather to please God — even if it means being persecuted for living for God. The Pharisees & hypocrites for example, were more focused on being glorified and adored by men rather than focusing on glorifying God (Matthew 6:1-4).
Thus, our words and our deeds must speak of the goodness and love of God in Christ, so that only God is glorified, for God will not share His glory with anyone (read Isaiah 42:8).
There are many other qualities and characteristics of a Christian found in scripture. Can you add more to this list? If so, please share with others what you have gleaned from your personal study.
*All scripture references are from the NIV Bible.
The following are topical teachings centered around our Christian Life.
- Beware of Comfort Zones
- Too Familiar With God
- Echoes of Mercy
- God Knows
- It’s Crying Time
- Exhumation of Buried Gifts and Talents
- What do You See?
- In Search of Truth
- I Don’t Know!
- If You Give It Up. You Can Have It All
- It’s Later Than You Think
- What Kind Of Love Is This
- The Scope of “All Things
- A Spiritual Word Diet
- Hearing From God
- Hindrances to Church Attendance
- What Have You Done For God Lately?
- Windows Of Providence
- Is Your Gratitude Showing?
- Right Where You Are!
Beware of Comfort Zones!
All of us have our comfort zones, our places of ease that are tailored to our specific levels of comfort and as devoid of strife or stress as we can possibly make them. We all need them, but beloved in Christ, we were never meant to dwell or abide in such places too long! Like a bed, our comfort zones were only meant to give us rest or respite from the hustle and bustle of the vicissitudes of life. When we abide or lay in bed too long, this very place of rest becomes a place of dependency and weakness and it begins to sap us of our strength and vitality! That is because all creatures were created to be perpetually on the move except for rest when needed.
The same occurs in our comfort zones when we abide in them too long! Comfort Zones can sap us of our strength, passion and ultimately deter us from our destiny. Things can degenerate to the point where we avoid any stressful or painful experiences, where we won’t even try anything new because it’s uncomfortable and we become stagnant and unwilling to accept challenges!
There comes a time in all of our lives if and when we realize that we have fallen victims to our comfort zones, that we must forsake them at all cost in order to continue to grow and mature as we should. Comfort zones were never meant to be places of permanent abode, but only temporary resting places. So echoes Christ’s word: “Take up thy bed and walk.” Get out of your comfort zone you who have been there too long! Free yourself while you still can! Stretch! Risk! Strain! Travail! Groin…Saints of God! Destiny awaits you!
Too Familiar With God
The old saying goes: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” I partly believe it although it’s not a given! If not outright contempt initially at least, then it most certainly breeds some subtle shades of disregard and paves the way for a lessening of respect. Some leaders, military and corporate for example, refrain from fraternizing with their rank and file because of this very syndrome. They feel that too much familiarity undermines their authority with their subordinates and erodes their respect. One of the greatest drawbacks of postmodern religion is that without gaining more knowledge of God we have become more familiar with God, perhaps too familiar!
Could it be that we have gotten too chummy with the Ancient of Days, too cordial with the Ever-living One? Israel’s reverence of God can be witnessed by the “Tetragrammaton. It is the Hebrew word for God transliterated from the word Yahweh and written as the four letter word, “YHWH.” The prefix Tetra means four and Gramma means letter. So Tetragrammaton reflects Israel’s reluctance even to speak or write The LORD’s name for fear of offending him! From that reluctance to our present day fearless cordiality with God, there has been a subtle consistent erosion of fear and reverence for The Almighty!
Israel saw God as both frightening and endearing! There is a correlation between our reverence for God and how we envision him. Some see God as a benign entity that created all things but is uninvolved in the affairs of mankind. Others see God as a distant Higher Power unconcerned with the everyday goings on in the lives of people. Still others see God as their “Homeboy,” their casual friend whom they talk irreverently with or as a totally loving and merciful heavenly Father. Yes God is loving and kind but he is also a terrible God! Realistically, God must be revered to the highest degree! We must forever guard against becoming too familiar with God!
Let no man think that he is an authority on The LORD! Let no one presume to have The LORD figured out! According to German theologian Rudolf Otto, God is a “Mysterium Tremendum et fascinated” meaning, in his estimation, God is a mystery to which mankind is both repelled by and attracted to. Let us resolve to always render the utmost reverence to The LORD, our God and refuse to let the spirit of familiarity seduce us unwittingly into irreverence and dishonor towards The Most High!
Echoes of Mercy
Words of Encouragement From Around The World
In his celebrated novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris during the French Revolution, Charles Dickens opens it with these words: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” These words published more than a century ago seem to more aptly fit our present day situations and circumstances than during the times when they were written! They detail an apparent dichotomy in a society in total disorder and disarray.
Despite the woes of our present moment, I still believe these are equally the worst of times as well as the best of times! Yes we are currently going through some tough times. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in his final public speech in April 3, 1968 said: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead…” However, I choose to subscribe to the words of Caleb in Numbers 13:3: “For we are well able to overcome it.” In fact, we are in actually being set up to succeed! Our current situation is no more than a set-up to success! It’s not going to be easy; anything worthwhile rarely is. However, if we can bring to bear everything we’ve learned and received all these many years upon what we are currently going through, we shall prevail! So let us gird ourselves up for the great work that is looming before us in spite of our current circumstances! Winston Churchill said it best with these words: “Let us therefore, brace ourselves for our duties and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”
If Grace Church of All Nations is standing tall when Christ dramatically returns in the clouds of glory let us conduct ourselves now so as to cause men to say when they reflect back on our storied history: “This was our finest hour!” Again in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963 Dr. King succinctly put it this way: The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. 1 John 4:4 declares: “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way: ““What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Lastly, Jimmy Johnson says this: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” It is time to add that little extra the ordinary! Be blessed!
Psalms 1:6 says: “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
At a time when I was feeling discouraged, alone and burdened down by the cares of this world and thinking that no one knew what I going through, the LORD spoke to my heart; he said only these two words: “I know!” Tears began to well up in my eyes as I looked around hoping no one was watching. Of course, I understood intellectually, like I’m sure all of us do, that God knows everything already, after all, He is omniscient. However, this time I felt a warm feeling all over me and it was as if The LORD had wrapped his spiritual arms around me and said: “I know; I know what you’re going through!” I thought of this verse in Psalms 1:6. “Inherent in knowing is responsibility”. With knowledge comes responsibility and with great knowledge comes great responsibility!
The Holy Spirit illumined me to the fact that God’s statement of “I know” by implication mean that God is not only well aware of all our problems, situations and circumstances; He is in total control of everything! “I know” means that God’s got a plan and all that we’re going through is part of that plan! To our disappointments and heartbreaks, vicariously He says “I know!” To our persecutions and unearned sufferings, He says “I know!” To our innermost hurts and our deepest emotions, He says “I know!”
So I reiterate to our fellowship of believers: Even though we are all going through, God knows! Whatever we’re going through, God knows! God knows the way of the righteous because he orders our footsteps. Psalm 37:23 tells us: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” 2 Corinthians 12:19 adds this afterthought: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
It’s Crying Time!
Psalm: 34:6 declares: “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” Also the Word of God tells us in John 11:35 that “Jesus wept.” Crying is one of the deepest responses of human emotion. Crying can be gut-wrenching or heart-rending. It can be an expression great joy or even one of profound grief. Crying can be manipulative and insincere or it can be cleansing and redemptive. Crying can also be accompanied with or without tears. Everyone who’s smiling isn’t happy and everybody who’s crying isn’t sad. A person can also be laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside. Some people are too embarrassed to allow others to even see them so much as shed a solitary tear! Society has cast the act of crying in a bad light especially for men who mostly view it as a weakness!
However, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality crying is the language of affliction and contrition. It is the language of unutterable groaning’s of the human soul. It is the safety valve of the heart. Crying helps relieve tension and it helps us to manage negative feelings. In fact crying, if sincere, can powerfully affect every aspect of our being namely mind, body and soul. While many things can make us feel better, oftentimes nothing does the soul better than a good cry!
Haven’t we all felt the need to cry? Sometimes the only thing left to do is cry. The human soul simply needs to cry out to its creator sometimes in guttural, almost primordial, and barely coherent fashion. If ever there was a time that we need to cry out to God with unrestraint and emotional abandon that time is now! We need to cry out corporately and individually to God for restoration, for redemption and for release! Saints of God: “It’s crying time!” The Psalmist in Psalm 34 recognized the urgency of his own predicament just as we must recognize the urgency in the lateness of the hour! The Psalmist also recognized his own human limitations in the midst of his situation and he recognized the poverty of his own soul apart from God… all of which served to communicate to him in abundant fashion that it was crying time! Our best crying must come forth now as we approach the consummation of this age! If we want it done in this dispensation, then we must set our heart to praying. We must cry aloud, spare not and lift up our voices like trumpets in Zion!
Crying unto God is not an option; it’s a divine imperative! Our children aren’t all saved yet and time is running out. It’s time to take up a wailing for our homes, our churches, our Leaders, our country, and our world! It’s crying time! Let us not darken counsel by words without knowledge not knowing how to pray as we ought!
“It’s Crying Time!”
Exhumation of Buried Gifts and Talents
Matthew 25:25 records this response from the slothful servant: “…And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours. But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant…”
Scripture leaves no doubt that God created us and endowed us with gifts and talents that we might manifest good works in the earth! Ephesians 2:10 testifies to this fact accordingly: ”For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” In light of this divine mandate why aren’t more people in the Church using their gifts, talents and resources for the work of the ministry and the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The reasons for this are many but perhaps one of the most compelling is that this is an area in which the devil spends considerable time, effort and resources at getting the saints to bury their gifts and talents in the grounds of apathy and indolence. But as we approach consummation of this age and the imminent return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God is doing a new thing in the Church today! This is also an area in which God is moving in these last days!
Romans 5:20 says where sin abounded grace did much more abound! So whatever the enemy is up to, God is up to so much more! Grace will always out-do evil and sin! Therefore, I’d like to sound the alarm that it’s time for all those slothful servants to go and exhume their dormant gifts and talents from the places whence they have been buried and get busy about our Father’s business. Because beloved, there is an accounting that we must give unto God for what we have done with what He has invested in us just like the wicked, slothful servant in our text.
Everyone who does nothing in the Church, who does not so much as lift a finger for the work of the LORD, is an inert member in the Body of Christ. In effect, they also have buried their gifts and talents deep in the aforementioned places! And what is more they are spiritually being carried along by those who use their gifts, talents and resources faithfully for the LORD! And if the truth be told those that do nothing are actually helping the enemy prevail! That is because the only thing that is required for the triumph of evil over good is that good men and good women do nothing! Although we know that the Devil loses in the end, for all those who sit back and do nothing he’s going to wreck havoc in their lives and in the lives of those who depend on them! If we don’t yield your gifts and talents for the work of the kingdom then God will raise up someone else to do what it was that you were ordained to do and the blessing and rewards will go to others! In every Church in this world there are graveyards of apathy, complacency and indifference! Some are small and sparse and others are vast and crowded! They harbor gifts and talents that have never been used before, gifts great and small, talents of phenomenal diversity and creativity! God is resurrecting those gifts and a talent in these last days in an all out effort to win a harvest of souls before Christ’s imminent return. There’s something that God has uniquely empowered each one of us to do in the Kingdom. What can you do?
What Do You See?
Numbers 13:30 records these words: “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, let us go up at once, and possess it; (The Land) for we are well able to overcome it”. Moses sent out twelves spies or more precisely twelve sets of eyes to take a look in the Promised Land. Their only assignment was to go and see, spy out the land and return to report exactly what they saw! Ten saw giants and a land that was ready to gobble them up. Only two, Joshua and Caleb saw that they were well able to go up at once and possess the land despite its inhabitants. Their first priority was to see. Our first priority in life is to see. What one sees will determine how one responds to the world they live in! There is a selective component to seeing that says people will generally see what they want or expect to see. In the case of the ten spies who came back from the Promised Land with an evil report they saw a foreboding dreadful place full of giants and danger. They were looking through the eyes of fear. What people see affects them emotionally, psychologically and intellectually just to name a few and it can either discourage or encourage their hearts.
The two spies who came back with a good report were looking through the eyes of faith! Fear and faith are opposites that are diametrically opposed to each other! Fear erodes faith and faith vanquishes fear depending on which is stronger or better fed. That’s why two people can look at the very same thing and see something totally different! That’s also why having live video footage in court of a crime committed does not guarantee a conviction by a jury of twelve.
We behold much with our eyes in this world, but we see on at least four different levels. 1) Literally, 2) Figuratively, 3) Spiritually, 4) Contextually:
Literally is to see what’s actually there as objectively as humanly possible.
Figuratively is to see conceptually in the mind.
Spiritually is to see supernaturally beyond the material world.
And Contextually means to see according to our experiences, education, social upbringing and training.
It is when we see according to all levels that our sense of sight serves us best! Time and time again God asked people “What do you see?”
In Jeremiah 1:11 the LORD ask Jeremiah “What do you see?”
In Amos 7:8 the LORD asked Amos, “What do you see?”
In Zechariah 5:2 the LORD asked Zechariah “What do you see?”
So, the next time someone asks you what do you see, hesitate for a brief moment and consider what you’re looking from different levels. Dare to imagine the possibilities, to see the invisible and touch the intangibles of reality!
In Search of Truth
Sometimes we fail to understand the truth because it doesn’t resemble anything like the truth we expect. What we need to realize is that oftentimes the truth comes buried beneath such mounds of absurdity, deception and incredulity that we can easily find it hard to believe, let alone even consider its alternative possibilities. Yes, truth can seem stranger than fiction! The truth can also escape us in its simplicity! The problem with twisting the truth for most deceivers is that truth stands alone whereas lies must be constantly interwoven into each other to keep them from unraveling! One lie leads to the need for another and another and so on. And that’s the trap! One can scarcely keep track of so many lies and cannot nearly work out the details for each lie so that they agree and support the deception especially when lies are offered impromptu or unplanned. What is also unfortunate for veterans of guile is that eventually all lies will start to contradict themselves! That’s the nature of untruth! That’s why professional investigators have long since discovered that “the Devil in in the details” as intense scrutiny will usually reveal. It is often the smallest detail, the slightest byte of data that betrays a lie and somehow points towards the truth. People who live their lives in truth don’t have to worry about what they say contradicting itself! Truth will never contradict itself so we can speak it with impunity and love.
The Apostle Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 4:14 “…That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love…” Discerning Truth is never a simple matter of deduction. It’s having an ear that has been attuned to hear the truth. It’s having a heart to know the truth! And it’s having a mind open to receive the truth. Seekers of truth must develop a relationship with the truth and become intimately acquainted with it. That’s part what Jesus meant in John 8:32 when he said: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Then He goes further and tells us exactly what truth is when He prayed in John 17:17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The Word of God is the Word of truth and nothing is truth until God’s Word says it is. Truth is immutable, uncompromising and indestructible. Heaven and earth will pass away but God’s Word shall abide forever and… his truth endures to all generations! As such, you can’t add to it or take away from it! And you can’t do anything to the truth but for the truth! Of course, you can try subvert it or temporarily obscure or twist it, but eventually the Truth will manifest itself openly. Truth has a way of ultimately becoming known! Ye shall know the truth! What’s done in the dark, shall be manifested in the light. Every word of truth we hear finds its way into our consciousness and or subconscious. Therefore, every one of us must deal with the truth as we hear it because when we fail to acknowledge it, the truth continues to stack up on the inside of us until we can no longer ignore it. Every word of truth not acknowledged will be a witness against us when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
I Don’t Know!
In John 9:21, when interrogated by the Pharisees, the parents of the man born blind answered with these words: “But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.” Both parents were in perfect agreement. They refused to answer the Pharisees questions; they both simply said: “I don’t know!
Sometimes, “I don’t know can be the best answer one can possibly give especially when you really don’t know. However, too many people fall into the trap of trying to impress others and they began to elucidate and pontificate on things that they have little or no knowledge of. Sometime in their prevarication, they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about! They become like Job in Job 38:2 as one who darkens counsel by words without knowledge.” When you have no idea what you are talking about it comes through loud and clear in your speech and in your choice of words. “For in our much speaking our hearts are seen and read of men.” As the ancient adage implies, it is indeed better to appear unlearned than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt! There is no shame in not knowing! Acknowledging that you don’t know something is the first step in the learning process and helping oneself remain unentangled in one’s own mindless chatter. It takes courage sometimes to sit down and shut up or admit that you don’t something especially if you should already know it!
I confess that approaching the deadline for this article I didn’t know what to write about this week. However, God is faithful and the Holy Spirit reminded me of what I preached about this past Sunday: the parents of the man born blind admitting to the Pharisees that they didn’t know who gave their son sight.
If You Give It Up. You Can Have It All
In Christian thought there is the idea that “If You Give It Up. You Can Have It All!” That is to say that if you sacrifice anything and even everything for Christ’s sake then you will in no wise lose out! Matthew 6:33 promises: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. Christian theology is replete with the promise of rewards for righteousness! Other religions don’t ask for too much saying give us some of your time, some of your support or some of your money. Yet they can promise only little in return especially in this life! God says give me your all! Luke 18:28-30 says this: “Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”
We don’t lose anything by sacrificing for the Kingdom! Galatians 6:7 declares: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 says: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” God sees your labor and your love for Him and it will not go unrequited! If no one sees your sacrifice and you never get acknowledged for anything you do, sacrifice and do good anyhow! Know that you are building up treasures on earth and in heaven! You have nothing worthwhile to lose and everything worthwhile to gain.
Yes, beloved, if you give it up you can indeed have it all! You have God’s Word on it!
It’s Later Than You Think
As we approach the consummation of this age and await the imminent return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must be ever so vigilant in maintaining our watch as we continue to work out our soul salvation with fear and trembling! Time is far spent. It is later than you think! We don’t have years to get right with God! Time is winding down as we know it! Our world can change drastically from day to day, from minute to minute even! We are undoubtedly in the eleventh hour spiritually and Christ could come back at any time! No one can predict exactly when! Therefore, it behooves us to be safe and make our election sure! However, if you have a spiritual ear to hear and the slightest bit of discernment then you can almost hear the hoof beats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse racing the world towards the plains of Armageddon! Time is working against every sinner who is not ready and willing now to repent and receive God’s priceless gift of salvation! Also working against those unreconciled with their creator is the fact that our souls could be required of us at any time. All of our lives hang precariously in the balance of time and happenstance! Second Timothy 3:1 lets us know: “…that in the last days perilous times shall come.”
Our world is definitely a more dangerous place to live in these last days! Innocent people are dying at an alarming rate due to terrorism, natural disasters, accidents and murders just to name a few! No one is immune to the possibility of sudden violence from any source either at home or abroad! The faithful in Christ need not fret with worry and fear afraid to come out of their homes, attend crowed public events or board a plane to travel anywhere. One preacher coined it this way: “If I blow up, then I’ll just go up!” We cannot tell what a day may bring, but be assured that it is later than you think! Like the five wise virgins we must keep the wicks of our lamps trimmed and our oil containers full in anticipation of the Bridegroom’s return. In plain English it means that we must maintain a constant state of spiritual readiness! We must be quick to repent, quick to ask God for forgiveness, quick to believe God at his word, and quick to avenge all disobedience! It’s later than you think! Who wants to be still here struggling with the same old sin during the tribulation? Beloved, shouldn’t we plan on not being around for the tribulation! When we fail to plan, then we plan to fail! When we fail to accept salvation, then we plan to accept eternal punishment! It is later than you think! Don’t wait too late! For now, is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
What Kind Of Love Is This!
The saying goes: “Talk is cheap.” However, I disagree because talk has precipitated many great achievements as well as a many unfortunate event. Unless it’s backed up by appropriate actions, then talk doesn’t mean as much as it might be intended. That’s why the old saying goes: “Put your money where your mouth is.” Take love, for instance. Likewise, love is just words like so much talk unless it backed up by serious action. You can tell me you love me and it might sound good or give me a warm and fuzzy feeling upon hearing it said, but I can’t be completely sure that it’s true or that you mean what you say unless you somehow show me! Actions really do speak louder than words John 3:16 gives us perhaps the loudest declaration of love in human history: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
There is no greater expression of love than someone dying for another! John 15:13 says it this way: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” How great a love that God has bestowed upon us that yet while we were still in sin, Christ died for us! Is there anyone who can seriously doubt the love of God that is in Christ Jesus? In your most profound rejection, your deepest feelings of loneliness and in your abject feelings of lovelessness, know that God loves you and that is an irrefutable fact! No matter who loves you, God loves you best! That is the central message of the Bible. The most profoundest thought in all the world can be summed up in this simple child verse: “Jesus loves me; this I know. For the Bible tells me so!”
The Scope of “All Things”
Romans 8:28 (ESV) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
“All things” in this verse of Scripture is virtually unfathomable! Never has anyone seen “All,” heard “All,” experienced “All,” or even conceived “All things.” Yet, here the Apostle Paul asserts that if you truly love the LORD, if you come into covenant with him and submit yourself to His purpose and call upon your life, then you can expect “All things” to somehow, unexplainably work together for your good! That’s rich! The earth, the universe and all creation is colluding, working in tandem for the benefit of our good! We can’t fathom how that is possible in our human intellect, but it is nevertheless true! God’s divine providence does not require our adherence to some divine script. It is independent of our God-given free will yet it is inclusive of it. Whatever choices we make affect our personal destiny but they cannot defer, stymie, frustrate or circumvent the purposes of God! His will shall be done! We don’t have to second guess ourselves in everything we do as long as we’re sure it’s in the will of God! When we are fully persuaded of the later, then we can rest assured that whatever happens will work out for our good despite how it might appear! And there will be times when it won’t look like anything is working for your good! That’s where faith comes in, after all it is the evidence of things not seen. Annie Johnson Flint, out of great personal tragedy penned these words entitled: “What God Hath Promised” and they have encouraged millions for years. It reads in part:
“God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain.” And the last verse says: “But God has promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way, Grace for the trials, help from above, undying sympathy, undying love.
A Spiritual Word Diet!
In Matthew 4:4, Jesus answered the tempter with these words: “…It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Certainly
“every word” in this passage includes a well-rounded nutritious spiritual diet of God’s Word. Just as a healthy natural diet should consist of healthy foods from all the different food groups, so should a healthy spiritual diet of the Word of God consist of nutritious servings from all the different books, chapters and verses of the Canon of Holy Scripture. This should specifically include a healthy dosage from the Old Testament books of Law to help stave off conditions such as cirrhosis of the giver or hardening of the heart, a daily heaping helping of the Gospels for spiritual stability, a generous helping of the Psalms for encouragement and an occasional side of Hebrew Poetry as food for thought. Balance things off with a modest measure of History and an extra piece of the Epistles for improved spiritual equilibrium. And finally, enjoy moderate mouthfuls of meaty morsels from the book of Revelations and Prophecy. And season all with grace and mercy to boot!
Our spiritual word diet should come from a variety of sources as well. It should come from sitting under anointed teaching and preaching of the Word of God. It should come from personal Bible study including prayer, research, reading and review of notes taken. We must be careful to nourish ourselves on the whole counsel of God and not pick or receive only what we like and disregard the rest. The child of God would do well to get the tools or utensils necessary in augmenting their spiritual diet of the Word of God! A good start would include a parallel bible with multiple translations, a good concordance, an excellent study Bible, a reputable Bible dictionary and a trusted Bible commentary. And lastly, get yourself a sturdy bound book or notebook for all your note taking needs and experience the joy of searching the Scriptures and finding the rich treasure it yields!
Hearing From God
We hear from many sources on a daily basis! We hear from God. We hear from man. We hear from angels. We hear from demons, and we even hear from ourselves and that’s just to name a few. So, with all these voices speaking to us, how do we know that we have heard from God? That is the biggest question of them all because it’s our hearing from God that is the most important thing in life! God speaks to us in many ways! Tantamount to hearing from God is being able to discern his voice! John 10: 4-5 declares: “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
Part of hearing from God also is knowing His Word! God does not contradict himself! Nothing God says will contradict what he has already said in his Word! Therefore, it behooves us to know what the Word of God says! The more we know, the more we are able to distinguish between the voice of God and the voices of others! The more of God’s Word that is in you, the more you become acclimated to or tuned into it. Then every other voice you hear that is questionable will not ring true in your spirit! Being able to discern the voice of God and hear definitively from the creator is worth more than all knowledge and wisdom of the world! Sadly, too many people claim God told them “thus and so” when it’s just not true. My favorite is: “God told me that So-In-So was my husband” despite the fact that So-In-So is already a happily married family man. If that didn’t anger me so much I would have thought it was funny, but it wasn’t and it’s still not funny! It’s scary really to think that the devil can deceive so many good people with strong delusion so easily. As we approach the consummation of this age we can expect the devil’s efforts in this area to intensify! To be forewarned is to be forearmed! Don’t let yourself be deceived into thinking God is speaking to you when it is someone else. Also, when you know that you’ve heard from God, don’t hesitate to be obedient! Romans 3:4 declares: “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.”
Hindrances to Church Attendance
Hebrews 10: 24-25 says: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” What day is this that Paul is referring to? It is the day of judgement, of course! The Apostle encourages the people of God not to break fellowship with Christ’s body, which his perennial establishment here on earth… that is… The Church! Ephesians 5:25 declares: “Husbands, love your wives. even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Jesus sacrificed his life not just for forgiveness of sin, but also to launch this spiritual organism which he dubbed “His Church” that it might stand for all times… even against the very gates of hell! Neglecting to be a part of the fellowship of believers is a denial of the importance of Christ’s work here on earth and his meritorious work on Calvary! When you shun the Church of Jesus Christ, you are shunning very Jesus himself! Jesus thought it so important to establish a “Church” as a spiritual entity and a powerful support system for his followers that he gave his life for it! In John 12:32 Jesus said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
As we extol the virtues of the Gospel… that is the birth, life, death, resurrection and second coming of Jesus Christ, he promises to draw all men unto him and into his spiritual ark of safety — The Body of Christ. . . A.K.A. The Church of the living God! There are priceless benefits in belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ and a member of a local church fellowship. I recognize that some people have had bad experiences in the Church and consequently don’t want anything further to do with it! They are convinced that the Church is not worth being a part of anymore and… that it only wants their money. How did this happen? “The enemy hath done this!” Yes, The Church has a lot to answer for before Christ returns, but it is still the best thing going! No matter how bad things might seem in the Church, it’s not as bad as it is portrayed by the enemy of our souls! The Church will survive as the Bride of Christ and be ready to meet him when he returns.!
I John 3:2b says it best: “…it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that. when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
The enemy would like for people to leave the Church in droves in anger and vindictiveness! Furthermore, his strategies are to bring accusations against the Church, to discourage membership by stirring up strife with offenses and unforgiveness between the saints of God, to continue to further tarnish the image of the Church in the world, to divide the saints of God in order to conquer them, to espouse heretical doctrine, to advance the spirit of error in the Kingdom and to promote as well as expose sin in the Church… and that’s just to name a few! We would all do well to realize what we already should know… but sometimes forget to remember. . . and that is: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities. against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6: 12) The Apostle Paul insists that we: “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Encourage someone every day and pray for the Body of Christ in these last days that we might become all that God has intended of us to be… and always look up, because your redemption draws nigh!
What Have You Done For God Lately?
James 2:26 declares: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Have you ever asked yourself or thought about why more Saints of God, more saved people in the Church don’t do more for Christ or get involved more in ministry? And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Mega Church or a Storefront Church… many professing Christians don’t get involved in the great work of human redemption! Too many people in the Church today are content with just being saved and going to Church every Sunday! They’re not concerned about using their gifts and talents for the Kingdom of God! In any given Church, there are some people or just a simple majority of folks who are sitting down on their gifts and talents and have effectively buried them like the unprofitable servant. Gifts and talents were given to us with an expectation that they would be used first and foremost in the service of the LORD! Too many saints of God have settled in their comfort zones and they are content in it until they are called home to Glory or until Jesus comes!
However; beloved, there is a Divine accounting that will take place in the judgment. I want to let everyone know that God didn’t just save us so that we could go to heaven! All of us who have been bought out of the darkness and delivered from shame were done so for God’s purposes! We were created for a purpose! Ephesians 2:19 says: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” There is more! Scripture is replete with validating instructions! In 2 Corinthians 5:18 it reads: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;” We who have been saved and reconciled to God have a job, a responsibility to go help reconcile others! The best thing any of us can do in this flesh is to help uplift another human being or any fellow creature on the face of this earth! One songwriter said it best:
If I can help somebody, as I pass along…
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song…
If I can show somebody, that he rs travelling wrong… Then my living shall not be in vain!
If I can do my duty, as a good Christian ought…
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought…
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught… Then my living shall not be in vain!
We all have an obligation to reach out to others! It is a job that we were created for by God Himself! 2 Timothy 2:15 Lets us know that it is a job that we must study for! “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” And finally, 1 Corinthians 15:58 lets us know that it is a job that we must be ever vigilant in! It reads: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
These generations of Baby Boomers and Millennials have to repent not only for our actions but also our inactions… Not only for empty words but for our deafening silence on the issues that are raging around us! If we really do care about souls it’s not apparent to the world!
Windows Of Providence
Sometimes you have to look in the rearview mirror to see what God did in order to put what He is doing in its proper context. It’s only in the proper context can we discern what He is doing in the earth and what He will do. God veils the future from human eyes of understanding and conceals the keys to unlocking it in the past!
Understanding the Word of God and Providence requires an understanding of one immutable fact. Edwin Louis Cole said that the LORD spoke to him and revealed this: He said: “I will do nothing except by a pattern or a principle.” We cannot fully understand the ways of God because we can’t think like God! The understanding of the New Testament is crouched in the Old Testament. Fully understanding God’s Providence is utterly beyond human comprehension. His ways are unfathomable because our knowledge is incomplete! 1 Corinthians 13:9 declares: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.” Only God knows it all! After all, He is omniscient! God does let us know generally what he is and will do in the earth. Yet he in no means spells out every little detail for us!
Therefore, we can be assured that according to His is plans, promises and prophecies, God will do this and more! However, because our knowledge is incomplete at best we can’t be arrogant and over-confident that we’ve got God all figured out! God will fulfill his every promise but not always the way we expect! So, we have the elements of trust and faith in God’s Word to rely on. The next time it seems to you that God didn’t keep his word remember, He cannot lie! So that means our perception of his word unfulfilled is in error. Everything in God requires Faith! You cannot please God without! Sometimes where your faith hits a wall you have to take a leap of faith and dare to believe anyhow despite what everything else points to. And when you look in the rearview mirror afterwards, then you can see clearer what God did and understand to a greater degree how and why He did it his way.
Is Your Gratitude Showing?
In Luke 17:15-18 we read: “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” “There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”
In this passage Jesus being very God asked a question. He says: “Where are the nine?” Any time God asks a question, a spiritual lesson will follow. Since he knows everything, He’s not looking for information! He’s not concerned about giving us a chance to show how much we know! When God asks a question then it is time to immediately take notes, pay close attention and listen intently! No doubt the lesson here is one of thankfulness or simple gratitude especially to God! Jesus also imitates here that gratitude is a public phenomenon and if sincere, it ought to be on display. Gratitude is such that it begs to be seen. If it’s not visible or evident then how genuine can it be? Thanksgiving or gratitude engenders continued good will by showing itself in open appreciation. The divine question is just as applicable to us today as it was over 2000 years ago when it was first uttered: “Where are the nine?” Where are those of us who are truly grateful for the manifold blessings of God? Where are the nine who whose gratitude should be on display? A failure to give thanks a.k.a. ”ingratitude” is notorious to all observers!
So, during this thanksgiving season let us endeavor to reverse the trend and let the nine return to give thanks instead of the one and in so doing let us display gratitude and thanksgiving before God and all the world!
Right Where You Are!
2 Corinthians 9:8 declares: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
God can bless you right where you are! Some blessings are place and time specific, but God is sovereign and can bless you right where you are! God’s ability to bless you is not contingent upon geographic, demographic or chronological constraints. He declares: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” I would also add that God can not only bless who he wants to, but He can bless when, where, and how he wants to! “He is able to make all grace abound to you…”
Many times, Saints of God grow weary in waiting for God to bless them and they seek to help the LORD in blessing them or expedite his blessings upon them. They begin to think that maybe they’re in the wrong place for their blessings. So, they go in search of a place more conducive to being blessed. Thus, they invariably end up somewhere that is incongruent with God’s plan for their life. God does indeed sometimes calls certain people out from where they are to places where He purposes to bless them. However, beloved we must not run blindly to places where others have gone and been blessed simply because we grow weary of waiting on God. We can easily miss God by chasing after the blessings instead of the source of all blessings! Of course, we want to be obedient to the Spirit of the LORD and do or go wherever He leads, but let us be sure that it’s really God whose leading us and not our own hearts. God can bless you right where you are! He blessed Ruth even though she stayed at her mother-in-law’s side instead of going back to her people and their gods as her sister did. God knows where you are and he has not forgotten about anyone! The prophet Samuel had to send for David from where he was tending sheep in order to anoint him king. God sought Moses on the back side of the desert. Ruth, David, and Moses were blessed right where they were. The Grace of God abounded towards them and as the second half of the verse said: they abounded to good works.