Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quit the stinking thinking!

Philippians 4:8-9

     And now, dear brothers and sisters let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

     Paul is nearing the end of his letter to the Philippian church, and almost like a dying Father giving words of wisdom before he departs this life, Paul shares nourishing truths that will help fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord successfully live out their Christian faith. He had experienced both sides of the coin, and he knew what it would take to stay on the straight and narrow path of following Jesus Christ. He boiled everything down to thought processes.

     What we put into our mind determines what comes out in our words and actions. Have you ever noticed the power of our mind or the fact that we can conjure up a multitude of different scenarios and assumptions without any of them ever coming to fruition? We’re all guilty of accusing someone without all the details, or immediately jumping to wrong conclusions without all the complete facts. And who hasn’t allowed the movie screen in your head to play out the latest scene of death, doom and destruction before you ever hear the doctor’s test results?

     Where would we be if we lived in a world that didn’t allow negative, false-assuming thinking to rule our life? Think about how peaceful and surreal life would be if we only lived for the moment, never allowing negative thinking to overrule reality. We would sleep better, love purer, serve deeper and trust stronger. When we allow negative, false thinking to overwhelm our thought process, we become held hostage in a fantasy world of our own making where we are never free to accomplish our intended mission and calling from God.

     In 2005, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. We spent the next four years praying and believing for a miracle from God, while allowing doctors to poke, prod, and attempt to remove the ugly disease from her body. In 2009, she went on to receive her ultimate, perfect healing from the Lord and is now rejoicing with her Heavenly Father forever. Although I rejoice in the fact that she is no longer in pain or discomfort, I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that the last six months of her life was the most horrendous thing I had ever experienced. The Lord was gracious and merciful and carried me through that most difficult time, but I prefer to never have to go back to that dark period of my life or experience anything similar to that ever again.

     Two years after my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, my dad was also diagnosed with the very same cancer.  He has endured different circumstances and treatments and is still alive today, continuing to serve the Lord. With the passing of my mother, I have taken the responsibility of looking after my father. He is doing very well, considering everything he has gone through, and continues to live on his own and care for himself.

     I give glory to God for each and every day that my father is still here with us, but I have to admit that there are days and moments where I allow fear and negative thinking to overwhelm me. At the slightest mention of an ache or pain, or the simple sound of a nagging cough, I am transported back to a time where I sat and watched my beloved mother wither and shrivel into someone that I could hardly recognize. If I allow myself to relive that scenario, in my mind, it’s not long before I place my father in that same circumstance. Do you understand what I’m saying here? When I do that, I am allowing past circumstances to dictate future scenarios.

     Only God knows the number of our days, and how we will spend the remainder of those days. It is unfair of me, or anyone else, to try to figure out what the future holds. Only God knows the future and we need to learn to trust Him to carry us through it, whatever it may be.

     It is a daily battle for me, to take my thoughts captive and think on things that are true, and lovely and right. My human mind wants to jump ahead and immediately assume the worst, but the Lord is teaching me otherwise. I have learned to recognize my negative behavior sooner, and I act accordingly. This verse immediately comes to my mind each time I’m faced with the decision to trust God or retreat into my negative fantasy world. When I find myself in that dilemma, I stop and ask myself a few questions: Is this thought that I’m thinking true and factual? Or is this thought something that I’ve conjured up in my mind? If I find that the latter is true, then I literally stop in my tracks and take that thought captive. I picture myself crumbling up that thought like one would crumble up a piece of paper, and throw it away. Often times, I have to physically occupy myself and my mind with another activity, so as to divert my attention away from my negative behavior. I know it may sound crazy, but if I want to be victorious in Christ and not allow the enemy of my soul to wreak havoc on my life, then I have to take drastic measures, in order to win the battle.

     Paul obviously understood this concept, which is why he wrote about it in the Bible. He knew that our sinful, human nature tries to overtake, overrule and overwhelm our spirit man, which is why he is giving us wonderful words of wisdom to overcome our human nature and go on to live a victorious life in Christ. It’s up to us whether to accept his wisdom or continue to live in defeat.

     Can you identify with today’s devotion? Do you allow your negative, false-reality to overwhelm your life? Take time to evaluate your thinking process and consider putting into practice some of the approaches I mentioned above. Most of all, ask God to help you change the way you think and what you allow to enter your mind, especially from outside sources such as: TV, computer, internet and movies.

Have a great day!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't worry about it!

Philippians 4:6-7

     Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

     Worry is probably the number one issue plaguing Christians, in today’s society. It’s obviously not a new problem, since Paul is addressing the same issue, in this portion of scripture. It’s one of the oldest tricks that Satan uses to try to diminish our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

     The more advanced society becomes, the more independent human beings become. Due to that independence, we attempt to solve all of our own problems and situations, often times without ever consulting the Lord, unless absolutely necessary. This is in direct opposition to what we are commanded in scripture. Take a moment to re-read the verse above. We are to pray about EVERYTHING, not just the things that we can’t handle on our own.

     For many years, I would worry about everything. I would lay awake at night trying to figure out, not only my own problems, but everyone else’s too! And I worried about crazy things like: what if the house would catch on fire, how would I rescue all of my children? What if something would happen to my husband at work (he is a firefighter), how would I go on without him? Not only did worry rob me of joy and happiness in life, it also caused major physical issues with my health.

     I had to learn how to move past the fear and worry, simply for my own sanity’s sake! I sought the Lord diligently for a solution to this problem. It didn’t happen overnight, but over time deliverance did come. It came in the form of a “turn off button.” Not a literal one, but an imaginary one in my mind. When I would lay in bed at night, instead of trying to solve all the world’s problems, I would have to picture a blank, empty room. It was completely bare, no pictures or furniture of any sort. And I would just focus on this blank room. Before I knew it, I would relax and fall asleep. During the same period of time in my life, I also began to pray and ask the Lord to take care of what I thought were issues in my life. During my prayer time, I would envision myself laying my problems at the feet of Jesus, then turning and walking away. Slowly but surely, it began to work. I found that I was worrying less and taking it the Lord much more quickly than I had before. Over time, I also noticed and rejoiced that the Lord was taking care of all my worries and fears. I focused on what we did have rather than what I felt we were doing without. It was amazing to see that there was always food on the table, clothes on our back and a roof over our head.

     I also constantly reminded myself of another scripture found in Matthew 6:34 which reads, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

     When you begin to just focus on today, not only do you enjoy the moment, but you find that the Lord’s peace begins to wash over you like a warm, summer shower. He honors our faith and trust in Him. And when we take that first step towards Him, He is quick to rush to our rescue. Simply trust Him and thank Him for today!

     What are you worrying about today? Does it rob you of sleep and enjoyment of life? If the Lord cares for the birds of the air and gives them food to eat, do you not think that He cares for you? Picture yourself laying your worries and issues at Jesus’ feet, then turning and walking away. Allow Him to solve your problems any way He sees fit. Trust Him that He has your best interest at heart. Resolve to put fear and pride aside and simply relax in His arms today, not giving one thought to tomorrow. Seize today and enjoy it!

Have a great day!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Do you have happiness or joy?

Philippians 4:4-5

     Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

     Keeping the right perspective is the most important thing that we can do to live an overcoming life in Christ. Trials, tribulations and difficult situations will always be present in this life, but when we learn to rise above them and remember that “all things work together for our good”, then we will be able to have joy as we walk through them.

     Joy and happiness are two totally different things, when it comes to our Christian walk. Happiness is based on emotions and joy is based on faith. We experience happiness when something good or positive happens to us or for us. Joy, on the other hand, is a choice we make when we believe that God has our best interest at heart. It is a trust and belief that the morning will come even when we’re in our darkest midnight hour.

     It takes faith to have joy and it only comes when we spend intimate communion time with the Lord. When our intimacy and communication time with the Lord is where it should be, then joy is a natural outflow, regardless of the situation around us. Deep down in our soul, we understand that our Heavenly Father loves us so very deeply and that, in and of itself, is enough to sustain us. That is enough, to fill us with joy. It’s not something that the world or possessions can give us; it can only come from the Lord.

     So the next time you’re walking through a difficult day, or a trying circumstance, take some time to remember that the God of the Universe thinks you’re pretty special. He may have allowed for that flat tire to happen so that you would avoid some dangerous situation further down the road. Or He may be allowing you to walk through that financial difficulty so that you will completely understand that He is the ultimate source of everything and security can only be found in Him.

     Today is the day to rejoice! Rejoice, even when things around you may look bleak. The Lord is coming back soon and He hasn’t left you here to fend for yourself. He loves you, He’s watching you, He’s caring for you and soon, He is returning to gather all of His children to be with Him. So again I say, rejoice!

     Do you rely on happiness or joy to guide your life? If you are constantly looking to buy the latest gadget or possession, or rely on people around you to bring fun and fulfillment, then you are probably relying on happiness to guide your life. I challenge you today, to spend some extra time in communion with God. Ask Him to fill your life with the joy that only He can give. Allow Him to give you a real reason to rejoice.

Have a great day!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Burying the hatchet!

Philippians 4:2-3

     And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. And they worked with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

     Disagreements are a natural part of human nature, and unfortunately, they take place inside the church and Christian community as often as they occur outside the church. But the Word of God commands us to love one another and not hold unforgiveness in our heart toward anyone. So, as Christians, we must work diligently to get past any disagreement that we may have with another brother or sister in the Lord. If left to fester, bitterness and resentment will grow and begin to infect more and more individuals and may eventually, cause huge ramifications within the whole church body.

     Women tend to be notorious for this kind of behavior. Once hurt or offended, a woman will spread the news like wildfire, hoping to gather as many alliances on her side, as she can. Since two women are often involved in this same behavior, you end up with a church body divided in two, usually over a trivial matter. Both looking for some sort of justification over the unfair treatment that they feel they have received.

     We, as Christians and the Church Body, do not need to play into that kind of behavior. We need to stay impartial, speak truth, and force the two parties to work through their disagreement in love, just like Paul was suggesting in this particular passage. It boils down to pride and arrogance, neither of which are listed in the fruit of Spirit, that we are to be exhibiting. (Quick reminder of what the fruit of Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.)

     When we are busy working on trying to perfect the fruit in our lives, we will have no time for petty arguments and disagreements. Satan will do anything and everything to try to cause division and strife within the Body of Christ, and it is our job to stay on guard and prevent that from happening. Often times, it means humbling ourselves and saying, “I’m sorry”, even when we feel we’re not at fault. Christ died for us when it was not His fault. Let’s follow His ultimate example, in order to move forward in peace and love with each other.

     Is there someone that you need to be reconciled with today? Bury the hatchet and go to that person and ask for forgiveness for holding a grudge or bitterness toward them, regardless of who was at fault. Don’t let today pass without making things right.

Have a great day!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Radical Behavior!

Philippians 3:17-21

     Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere.

     Paul followed hard after Christ. He tried to pattern his life in the exact image of Jesus Christ so that he could be the ultimate example that others could follow and replicate. He knew that to become a Christ follower, one must die to self and unfortunately, many in Paul’s day weren’t willing to do that and so they rode the fence when it came to living and acting like a Christian. They acted one way when they were surrounded by other Christians, but then lived in total opposition to Christ when they were off in their own world.

     Paul also understood the philosophy that heaven was his real home, and that time on earth was only a mission or job that God had entrusted to him. So he lived in accordance to that philosophy, building up treasures in heaven rather than on earth.

     In today’s day and age, Paul would be considered a radical Christian. He had no earthly possessions, wandered around the world preaching and teaching about a God and His Son that were basically invisible, picked up work wherever he could, and spouted off concepts that most people could not even understand, much less put into practice. I believe he would be ostracized and ridiculed if he lived in our present society and world. But the truth to the matter is that Paul was and still is the ultimate example of what a Christ follower should look and act like. His behavior and actions should be the norm, not the exception to the rule.

     True Christianity is supposed to be a radical lifestyle, one where we act and think differently than the world around us. If we blend in with the world, tell the same jokes, model the same behaviors, hoard up the same possessions, and value the same priorities, then I believe we need to reevaluate what we consider Christianity. Paul calls those that behave in the same way as the world, enemies of the cross of Christ.

     Wow! When you think about it in that way, it brings a whole new meaning and responsibility to carrying the title of “Christian”. It’s no wonder that we “Christians” have made a bad reputation for ourselves. We throw the title around, but don’t have the actions to back it up. We are unfortunately known as stingy, unfriendly, judgmental hypocrites. That is not what Jesus Christ intended for us. I believe all we need to reevaluate the true meaning of Christianity and whether or not we are truly walking it out in our own personal lives.

     Do you call yourself a Christian? Do you believe your actions line up with what it means to be a Christian? Are your behaviors and actions different than those in the world around you? Spend some quiet, reflective time today, contemplating and reevaluating what it really means to be a Christ follower. Ask the Lord to show you the patterns and behaviors that you may need to work on in your own personal life as a Christ follower.

Have a great day!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Judgment Calls!

Philippians 3:15-16

     I hope all of you who are mature Christians will agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must be sure to obey the truth we have already learned.

     There are some things in the Bible that just aren’t black and white and can be interpreted in many different ways, which can cause disagreements and arguments among Christians. Paul is warning against such kind of behavior, in this portion of Scripture.

      As mature Christians, we need to learn how to put aside our differences of opinion on petty matters and focus on the weightier, more meaningful, topics of Christianity. Whether we wear jeans or a dress to Sunday morning service really won’t make or break our salvation experience with the Lord. After all, the Lord looks at our heart, not at our outward appearance. Unfortunately, it’s man that looks at the outward appearance and brings about a judgment call way too often. (Please understand that I’m not condoning seductive appearances, in any shape or form)  If the Lord impresses upon your heart to always look your best as you attend church services, then by all means, dress accordingly. But we are not to take what the Lord impresses upon our heart and place that same conviction upon everyone else, especially when it’s a small matter that doesn’t really affect our salvation. We need to work out our own salvation on a daily basis. Trying to work out someone else’s salvation is just plain wrong and immature. God is a big enough God to speak to others just as easily as He speaks to us.

     Does that give us free reign to live any way we like, and interpret Scripture any way we see fit? Absolutely not! The Bible is very clear on many points and we need to be knowledgeable about what it has to say, and obedient in living it out in our own lives. But there will be times and situations where certain points won’t be as crystal clear as others and that’s where we need to commit those questions to the Lord. He will make it plain to us, if we will just ask for His guidance and direction.

     When I first became a Christian, at the age of 16, my family and I were told by the leadership of our church at that time, that I had to give up the dance lessons that I had taken since I was a young child. Now these dance lessons were the typical tap, jazz and ballet classes that a good majority of young girls often take as they’re growing up. My mother had been a dancer, and therefore started me in classes when I was just four years old. I loved to dance, and had acquired quite a talent in that area of my life. I often dreamed of moving to New York one day and becoming a professional dancer. It wasn’t simply a hobby for me, it was a passion. The news of having to give up my passion, in order to serve the Lord, was absolutely heartbreaking to me. I had a very difficult time understanding why. I felt the Lord had given me that particular talent, so why would He make me give it up? But I trusted the leadership of my Pastor, and I walked away from my one true passion, believing that it would make me a better Christian.

     As I have grown and matured in the Lord over the past 30 years, I’ve come to realize that innocent dance lessons have absolutely no bearing on who you are as a Christian. It’s a hobby, just like football, baseball or cheerleading. Can hobbies become destructive and ruin your walk with the Lord? Yes! When a hobby becomes more important than your relationship with the Lord, or if you use your hobby in a sinful, lustful manner, than you run the chance of displeasing the Lord and ruining your Christian witness.

     My point to all of this is this; be very careful when interpreting God’s Word, especially when it has to do with something that isn’t very clear. Go to God, and ask Him to show you truth. And then, receive that for yourself. Don’t try to pass judgment and condemnation upon others. Allow God to handle that, in His way and His time.

     Where are you today? Are you working out your own salvation? Or do you tend to pass judgment on others? Ask God to reveal some areas in your own life that you need to work on. Ask God to forgive you for judging others. When questioning whether you should participate in a certain activity or not, ask yourself this question; “Would I be ashamed or embarrassed if Jesus showed up while I was participating?” Answering that question will help you move forward with clarity and a pure conscience.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And the winner is........

Philippians 3:12-14

     I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

     Paul was one the greatest and most influential figures in the Bible, writing a good portion of the New Testament. But he was quick to recognize the fact that he was far from perfection, constantly striving each day to be who God had called him to be. He knew that his focus had to be on what was ahead of him, in order to stay on the right track and accomplish all the things that God wanted him to accomplish. The prize at the end of the race was in the forefront of his mind and nothing was going to distract him from his goal.

     We are all faced with distractions as we walk through our Christian walk. Many of them are sent from the enemy himself, trying to discourage us or lure us away from our intended purpose and calling. These distractions can come in the form of disagreements, sickness, financial distress, back-biting, rejection and many, many more. But it’s only when we keep our eyes on the end prize (which is spending eternity with our Lord), that we are able to overcome the distractions and move forward into our destiny and continue to accomplish great and mighty things for the Lord.

     Last Sunday, during our morning worship service, I was participating in a choir special. Before we had the opportunity to sing our song, time was given to invite anyone that needed special prayer to come down to the altar to receive that special prayer. It was during that time that the Lord prompted me to go and pray with someone in particular and share a specific word from the Lord for them. As I stepped off the choir risers and began to descend the stairs from the platform, I lost my footing and stumbled down the stairs, eventually able to catch myself without revealing too much of my unmentionables. My ego took quite a beating from the incident along with a few jabs from some individuals after the service, but I didn’t let my embarrassing situation deter me from my intended purpose. I got myself up, brushed myself off, and moved forward in praying and believing for a seemingly hopeless situation for someone else. I kept my eyes on Christ and my calling for that particular moment and situation, and pushed aside my feelings of pride and embarrassment.

     That may seem like a silly example to what many of you are experiencing on a daily basis, but the point remains the same. Don’t look to the left or right or listen to the reactions of those around you. Keep your focus on your intended goal and never stray from it. Pretend to have blinders on your eyes and ears, so that you only see and hear Christ. The voices and reactions of those around you will always attempt to sway you off course. Spend quality daily time with the Lord through prayer and His Word, so that His voice will drown out all the other voices. It is a hard, vicious battle, but one that you can come through victorious if you will keep looking ahead.

     Do people’s opinions of you mean more than God’s opinion of you? What voices do you tend to listen to; God’s or those around you? Have you lost sight of your intended goal or prize? Spend some extra time today in prayer, listening to and recognizing God’s voice. When someone speaks negatively to you today, realize that it is the enemy’s way of trying to distract you and throw you off track. Come against him in prayer and ask God to replace those negative lies with His truth! Staying focused takes practice, so get busy practicing!

Have a great day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some things are just priceless!

Philippians 3:7-9

     I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or may ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

     Paul used to think that obeying Jewish law to the strictest degree was the correct and only right way to be accepted by God. He was so zealous in his beliefs that he persecuted and even helped kill those that proclaimed to be followers of Jesus Christ. After his encounter with the resurrected Christ on his way to Damascus, he became a devout believer and follower of Jesus Christ and realized that following the letter of the Law did not bring about the relationship that God wanted Paul to have with him.

     You see, when we only follow rules, laws and regulations, when it comes to religion, we miss out on so much more that the Lord has made available to us. Choosing the right clothes to wear, attending the correct amount of services each week and articulating the most current religious terms doesn’t make us any more of a Christian than sleeping in the garage will make us a car. It’s not just about doing the right things, it’s also about having the right relationship. It’s about what’s going on in our heart.

     Once we realize the “priceless gain of knowing Christ”, everything else we’ve ever experienced or done pales in comparison. Paul understood that and lived the rest of his life accordingly. As Christians, we need to understand that truth also. For some reason, we keep thinking that life is always greener on the other side of the fence, so we experiment in many different areas that not only does us great harm, but it brings a reproach to God and His gospel. We’ve all been down roads that we know only brought us pain and turmoil, so why do we try to revisit those paths? We need to keep moving forward with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus Christ. There is nothing out there worth us risking being sidetracked. Let our past stay in our past and let our future remain in the hands of Christ.

     Take some time today to remember what your life used to be like before you met Jesus Christ and developed a relationship with him. Reflect on all that He has done for you and all the blessings you have received from Him. Sincerely thank Him and praise Him. Spend one full day just thanking Him for His goodness and not asking Him for one thing. Then think about how you feel at the end of that day.

Have a great day!

Friday, August 19, 2011

What are you trying to earn?

Philippians 3:1-3

     Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters may the Lord give you joy. I never get tired of telling you this. I am doing this for your own good.
     Watch out for those dogs, those wicked men and their evil deeds, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship God in Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done in us.

     There is nothing we could ever do to “earn” salvation. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, plain and simple. Before Jesus Christ came to earth and offered himself as a living sacrifice for all, only Jewish people who strictly followed the Old Covenant law were acceptable to God. One of the Old Covenant laws was that a male baby was to be circumcised eight days after his birth. This law or requirement had been in existence for many, many years in the Jewish community, and now that the Old Covenant had been replaced with the New Covenant (being made acceptable to God through the blood of Jesus Christ), some new Jewish converts to Christianity were preaching/teaching and requiring all male Christians (whether Jew or Gentile) to become circumcised in order to receive salvation.

     Paul was very angry about this teaching. Not that it was necessarily circumcision, but the fact, that there were not to be prerequisites to salvation, other than faith and repentance. Right actions in wanting to please God after salvation were to be a result of faith.

     The practice of circumcision to receive salvation doesn’t necessarily continue today, but there are many other so-called requirements that some say are needed, and they are simply not true. God is not looking at how we dress, what we have pierced or tattooed, or how big our Bible is. He simply looks at our heart. We will never be able to earn salvation through our actions or deeds, regardless of what anyone may try to tell us. Once we receive salvation, we are then motivated to change our lifestyle to line up with the Word of God because of the new love of Christ and the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Human effort never has and never will make us right with God; it is only through the free gift of salvation given freely from God through His son, Jesus Christ.

     Have you ever thought that by “doing” right things would earn you a place in Heaven? Has today’s teaching challenged your way of thinking and believing? Today, I challenge you to stop trying to “earn” your way into right standing with God, and simply receive His salvation by accepting the fact that Jesus Christ loves you and died for you. Build a relationship with Him rather than trying to prove that your “good enough” to be accepted by Him.

Have a great day!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How bright is your light?

Philippians 2:14-15

     In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.

     The only thing arguing and complaining accomplishes is the fact that we’re wrapped up in our self. Feeling the need to be right at all costs and complaining about every tiny, little thing only proves to the world that Christianity must not be all that great and doesn’t differ much from the life they are already living. If Christians grumble, complain and argue, why would they want to enter that kind of lifestyle? They can stay at home and receive the same treatment.

     What does it mean to be a light in a dark world? Those who haven’t accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior are living in a state of darkness overshadowed by Satan and his influence. When they come in contact with Christians or Christ’s followers, the light and life of Christ is exposed (or should be) to them. They should immediately notice something different in us.

     When I was a child, my brothers and I used to play a game. We owned a few small rubber balls (we called them super balls) and they glowed in the dark. We would close the door to our bedroom, turn the lights off and duck down all around the room. Then the person with the ball would throw it as hard as they could, which allowed the ball to bounce and ricochet all over the room. The goal of the game was to not get hit by the ball. If you did, you were out of the game. The goal of the game is not the point that I’m trying to make here. What stands out from this story is that when we turned the lights out in the bedroom, we couldn’t even see our hand in front of our face, and the light from that tiny ball was all that was visible. It was the only visible object in our dark, clouded surroundings. We took great notice of the small light, for it helped influence our every movement.

     You and I are that small, rubber, glow-in-dark ball. As we bounce here and there and ricochet through life, we become a light to those who are fumbling around in the dark, trying to gain their footing. We may be the only light they see in their entire lifetime, and if we’re busy arguing and complaining as we ricochet past them, then they will never notice us because our light will not be shining. It is only when we portray Christ and His character that our light shines bright and strong. Paul is encouraging us, in this scripture to stay away from anything that would cause our light to be diminished and ineffective. We only have a short shelf life; we should strive to make every moment count for Him.

     Have you ever thought of yourself as a light in a dark world? If you were an outsider, having an opportunity to watch yourself and your life from afar, what would you see? Do you believe you would stand out from the crowd, exhibiting Christ-like behaviors? Take some time today to reevaluate your behaviors and how you portray yourself to those around you. Ask God to reveal any changes that need to be made in your character so that you will shine more brightly for Him.

Have a great day!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Philippians 2:1-4

      Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.
     Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.

     Paul is laying the cards on the table, in this portion of scripture. The first few questions are Paul’s way of emphasizing the fact that, as Christians, we receive so much from the Lord. He gives us encouragement, comfort and fellowship which should lead us to extend sympathy, love, and caring to others, even if we don’t always agree with the other person. If they are a child of God, then it’s our responsibility and obligation to love them, just as Christ loves us. He sees all of our flaws and imperfections, and yet, still loves and accepts us.

     In order to attain unity in any organization; whether it’s a church, business or household, humbleness must be present in all participants. One dose of selfishness or self-centeredness will throw off the whole equation, with unity being thrown out the window. Humbleness is not a sign of weakness or self-denial, but rather, a desire to put other’s needs ahead of our own. In other words, we are not to think too highly of ourselves, expecting special treatment or accolades because of who we are and what we’ve accomplished. In reality, God sees all of us in the same light; saved by His grace and covered by the blood of Jesus. He doesn’t see any of us as more special than the next one, but in our humanness, we act as if favoritism abounds. And many Christians are falling by the wayside and leaving the church in droves because of this mentality and the treatment they are receiving. If we are good enough for God, why can’t we be good enough for each other?

     This is one of the biggest traps from Satan, and we have fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.  We allow our education, looks and accomplishments overrule our mandate from God to be humble. Last time I checked, Jesus Christ was the Son of God and had every right to exalt himself and demand preferential treatment, but yet He humbled himself, became a lowly man and washed the feet of those who eventually betrayed him.  ­­­What could we possibly do or accomplish to warrant being greater than the Son of God? You and I both know that the answer to that question is, “Nothing.” So we must move forward with seeking forgiveness for our self-indulgent attitude and allow humbleness to dictate our every move. Jesus Christ is our ultimate example, not the person leading a ministry on TV, or the author writing the next, great, self-help book. We need to allow Christ and His Word to set the standard in our life.

     Have you ever thought what true humbleness means? Do you know anyone in your life that you consider to be a humble person? What attributes do you admire in that person? How do you treat others, especially those you don’t necessarily see eye to eye with? Spend the remainder of today being consciously aware of your treatment toward every person you come in contact with. Attempt to treat each one with love, caring and joy, regarding them, “as better than yourself.”

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Philippians 1:28-30

     Don’t be intimidated by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this fight together.

     Often times, we are not faced with a real, live enemy breathing in our face, looking to do battle with us, but as Christians, we are always faced with an unseen but very real enemy named Satan. He does not want us to be successful as Christians and he definitely doesn’t want us to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, so he will use any means possible to deter us and knock us off course. We have to decide, during those moments, if we’re going to let it keep us off course, or if we’re going to get back up and fight.

    Paul is attempting to relay the message that not only can we survive attacks from the enemy, but we can thrive within the midst of the attacks. If we will simply trust in God, rather than our own abilities, He will save us and destroy our enemies. We have that privilege, but often times, we fail to utilize it. It’s like having a washing machine, but never using it. The privilege of using the washing machine is available, but instead we choose to take the clothes to the Laundromat. How much simpler our life would be if we would just stay home and use the washing machine? It is the same with trusting God. Life would be so much simpler if we would just access the privilege of trusting Him.

     It is a fight, though, and there will be times of exhaustion, discouragement, and suffering. But if we will realize that we aren’t in this fight alone, we have others beside us that we can turn to and band together with, and then it makes the fight more bearable. Encourage one another, offer someone a helping hand, pray for each other and thereby, lighten the load. We need to quit becoming an island unto ourselves and join together to move forward in victory. Let me repeat Paul’s words above, “We are in this fight together.”

     Do you feel like you have been battling all alone? Do you hide your problems and emotions so no one will know what’s going on in your life? Reach out to someone today, not for what they can do for you, but for what you can do for them. Give someone a call that you know is going through a really tough time. Encourage them, pray for them, and physically do something for them, if possible. Watch how the situation in your own life will take a drastic turn for the better when you reach out and fight for someone else.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Are you ready to die?

2 Corinthians 1:20-24

     For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die. For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires. Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live.

     Paul was torn between two desires. He wanted to live and fulfill God’s purpose in his life, but he also wanted to die and go on to be with the Lord. He had such an intimate, closeness with the Lord that he wanted to be with him for eternity, but he also knew that God had placed him on the earth to spread the Gospel of Christ and touch many lost souls. So, as a man on a mission, he set aside his earthly trials and trudged forward to fulfill all that he was called to be, living in this world but with eternity on his mind.

     As Christians, we should also be torn between two desires. Deeply longing to be with Christ in eternity, but also driven to touch and transform every lost soul that’s placed in our path while we walk this earth. Even if we don’t completely understand what our ultimate plan and purpose is; we can still share God’s love and salvation each and every day, if we will just be obedient and bold.

     Most of us really don’t ever want to die. Have you ever thought about that? We have become comfortable here on earth, trying to create our own little heaven right here. We have our friends, family and possessions, and even though we have to suffer through some trials, stresses, inconveniences and sickness, we would rather stay here then to go on to our eternal reward. We don’t comprehend that as Christians, dying is more beneficial than living, which means that we’ve placed more emphasis on ourselves and our own little world than we have on our God-given purpose and plan. In reality, if we’re not ready to die, then we’re not really ready to live. I want you to understand what I’m trying to say. If we’re not ready to give up our desires and die to ourselves in order to serve Christ, then we will never truly understand what it means to live. It’s only when we take our focus off of ourselves and place it on others that we will ever understand what the true meaning of life is.

     When was the last time that you thought about eternity and where you will spend it? Do you live your life with heaven as your ultimate goal? Do you see your life on earth as fulfilling a mission? Today, ask God to reveal what His mission and plan is for your life.  Take active steps to listen for His answer. It may come through a still, small voice or through a series of events that may seem like a coincidence. Attempt to be acutely aware of His communication and presence with you.

Have a great day!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Divine discomfort!

Philippians 1:12-14

     And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and have become more bold in telling others about Christ.

     Paul was in prison for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, and yet, he saw a positive side to his situation. He took a tough, negative situation in his life and used it as a launching pad to further the spread of the Gospel. Even the palace guards knew and understood the reason for Paul’s arrest and imprisonment because Paul had told them so. He didn’t allow uncertain circumstances to hold him back from sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone he came in contact with, even if it was prison guards or Roman soldiers. He believed everyone should be afforded the right to receive salvation, even at the expense of his own comfort and safety.

     Paul, the eternal optimist, saw the good in every situation and believed that God really did work all things together for good. He understood that life wasn’t all about him and his comfort, but instead it was about spreading the news of Jesus Christ and salvation to a lost and dying world. He trusted that wherever he landed was obviously ordained by God and part of a bigger mission.

     We often find ourselves in negative, tough situations, and our reactions are usually quite opposite from Paul’s. We immediately think about our own comforts and desires and react accordingly. A simple flat tire can cause a major meltdown and upheaval due to our comfort level and time schedule being disrupted. We would rather gripe and complain about our own discomforts instead of believing that God ordained our steps and placed us in the path of someone who needed to know about Jesus Christ and His salvation. When was the last time we shared the gospel with a tow truck driver, or an emergency room nurse, or the person behind us in the long, grocery store check-out line. Our uncomfortable situations situate us in places where we have an opportunity to make a huge difference. And instead of seeing that wealth of opportunity, we see a self-centered, inward view of negativity and discomfort. Often times, our uncomfortable situations is God’s way of accomplishing his intended purpose and if we will learn to submit to His ways and attempt to see things from His perspective, we will accomplish so much more for the Kingdom of God.

     When was the last time you thanked God for a negative situation in your life? Think back on one of those situations. Can you now see a positive thing that resulted from what you thought was once a hopeless case? Thank God for hindsight!
     Be aware today of every step you take and every place you’re situated. Look at those that are situated around you and realize that your steps are ordained by God. Strike up a conversation with that person next to you in line. You don’t have to preach, just share some joy and love with them. Watch where God will take it, I think you’ll be amazed. (I’d love to hear some feedback from those that follow this advice today.)

Have a great day!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are you producing fruit?

Philippians 1:8-11

     God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until Christ returns. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – those good things that are produced in your life by Jesus Christ – for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

     Paul had such a deep, loving and compassionate relationship with the Philippian church and because of that relationship, he longed for them to continue to grow and mature in their relationship with Jesus Christ. He understood that if they weren’t growing in their walk with the Lord, then they were dying, spiritually speaking. Modeling and emulating Jesus Christ was his number one priority, while teaching that salvation should produce some specific, Godly character traits and values.

     Living in this fallen world, often times, we are heavily influenced by its morals, values and priorities. If we are not grounded and immersed in the Word of God and its teachings, we can be led astray by our own selfish, human desires and longings. And when led by those selfish desires, we fall short of God’s standard in our lives when it comes to modeling the fruit of his Spirit.

     What are the fruits of the Spirit? Let’s look at Galatians 5:22-23:

     But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

     It is only when we are led by the Spirit of God that we are able to produce His fruit. If we are led by our sinful, selfish nature, then we are in direct opposition to the Spirit of God and our actions will show it. We can’t have one without the other. If you want to produce His fruit then you must be led by the Holy Spirit, which means that you must commune with Him each and every day.

     Have you ever witnessed a child imitating their father or mother in exact likeness and actions? Why do you think they are able to accomplish that? It is because that child has spent untold number of hours in relationship with their parent. They have watched every move they’ve made and listened to every word they’ve spoke and because of that they are able to imitate their exact movements and actions.

     It is the same concept when it comes to imitating the Holy Spirit. We are to watch his every move and listen to his every word, and then and only then are we able to produce the fruit that Paul is talking about.

     What kind of fruit are you producing? When you look at the fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, can you say that you have modeled any of them this week? When was the last time that you spent any significant time in prayer with the Holy Spirit? If this is a new concept for you, take some time today thinking about and trying to understand the fact that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (or Godhead), given to you to assist you in your walk with the Lord. As a Christian, He lives inside of you and attempts to commune with you on a continual basis. Give Him some needed attention and interaction today and listen quietly for His response. Also, pick one fruit of the Spirit and ask the Lord to help you to be able to model that fruit in some way this week.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Regaining Focus

Philippians 1:1-6

     This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Jesus Christ. It is written to all of God’s people in Philippi, who believe in Christ Jesus, and to the elders and deacons.
     May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
     Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.

     Our devotion today takes us to another book that is authored by Paul, the book of Philippians. Paul wrote this book/letter to the church in Philippi from his prison cell in Rome. Paul planted the Philippian church on one of his missionary journeys and this letter was to thank those believers for the gift of money they had sent to him and also to bring encouragement to them as they continued to faithfully live for the Lord.

     Paul had a way of always starting each letter with a prayer and an uplifting, encouraging word for the recipients. Even when he had to bring correction into a situation, he always prefaced that correction with positive, encouraging words first. Boy, we could learn a lot from that example!

     The Philippians were faithful followers who believed in Paul and his mission, to the point where they helped to support him financially. He was their spiritual Father who had sacrificially poured into their lives in many different ways and because of that they were willing to pour back into his life.

     As Christians, we need to do the same thing. We all have leaders and mentors who have sacrificially poured into our lives in many different ways, and we need to thank God for those individuals and be willing to pour back into their lives in any way that the Lord leads us. We need to be willing to bless them so that they may continue to be a blessing to others.

     Paul also had the spiritual wisdom to understand that the growth that was taking place in individual’s lives had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with the Lord. He was a vessel that God was able to work and speak through, but true spiritual growth and wisdom came from God himself. He was very clear in letting the believers know that it was God that began a good work in them and it would be that same God that would continue working in them until they went on into eternity. Whether Paul lived or died, stayed in prison or was set free, really didn’t matter. They needed to keep their eyes and hearts firmly focused on God, not on Paul or any other leader of their time. Who they were and where they were going was all in God’s hands and He would lead them, guide them and care for them regardless of what was going on around them.

     We need to read that last paragraph and put ourselves in their place. Who we are and where we’re going has nothing to do with those around us but everything to do with the Lord. Friends, Pastors and leaders may come and go in our lives, but that doesn’t change what God is doing in us. We may try to blame our lack of spiritual growth and direction on others, but in reality, we are the only ones that can take the blame. It is God that started a work in us and it is only the same God that will finish the work in us. We tend to look at others to feed us, pamper us and push us along and we need to put our big boy/girl panties on and take responsibility for our own walk with Lord. It is then and only then that we will understand that it doesn’t matter what happens to those around us, the only thing that matters is what happens through us.

     Has God begun a good work in you? Do you struggle believing that He will continue that good work in you? Have you lost track of where you’re going because you’ve taken your eyes off of God and looked at the people around you and what’s going on in their lives? Take some time today to regain your focus. Repent for placing people in the position of authority that only God should hold. Ask God to help you to realign your focus on Him and Him alone.

Have a great day!