Monday, February 25, 2019

SETTING GOALS
My mother always stressed the importance of setting goals, aiming high for desired results, and then striving to achieve them. As I was praying and asking God to help me set goals to think on those things that are pure and righteous; speak what edifies; do those things that please Him; and be all that He calls me to be as His child, I felt a pause in my spirit to meditate on those four words: think, speak, doand beThe result was humbling. On the surface, those words may seem simple and to the point, but with God, those words carry a much deeper meaning, thereby, requiring a greater responsibility in our walk with Him.

1. THINK: What things should we think and not think?

—Think on things of excellence: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).  
—"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you" (Romans 12:3).
—"Do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh?" (Romans 13:14 NIV)
—"If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become "fools" so that you may become wise" (I Corinthians 3:18).
—"Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know" (I Corinthians 8:2 NIV).
—"If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).

2. SPEAK - What things should we speak and not speak?

—"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs" (Matthew 10:27)
—"The mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (Matthew 12:34)
—"In all things speak the truth in Christ" (Romans 9:1).
—"This is what we speak not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words" (I Corinthians 2:13).
—"Speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). —"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19)
—"If anyone speaksthey should do so as one who speaks the very words of God" (I Peter 4:11).
—"Speak to each other about these things every day while there is still time so that none become hardened against God, being blinded by the glamor of sin" (Hebrews 3:13)
Speak in faith"For assuredly, I say to you, whoever [speaks] to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says" (Mark 11:23 NKJV).

3. DO— What does God call us to do and not to do?

—"Do not speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters" (James 4:11 NIV).
—"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things" (Matthew 6:34 NKJV).
—"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
—"Do not be afraid; just believe" (Mark 5:36). "Do not be afraid" appear in the Bible 365 times. This is a command, which tells us that every day, we are not to be afraid. This truth should be embraced in this present day, so that no matter what happens, we will rest in God's hands. 
—" Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
—"Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you where ever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
—"Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:16 NIV).
—"Do to others, as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31 NIV).
—"Do not deceive yourselves. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise" (I Corinthians 3:18 NIV).
—"Do not be conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2 ESV).

4. BE —What does God want us to be and not to be?

"Be" is a definitive verb that states something decisively and with authority. It is a command and not a suggestion. This truth must be embraced in this present day, so that we can rest safely in God's hands.
—"Be strong and courageous" (Joshua 1:7 NIV).
—"Be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28 NIV)
—"[Be confident in this], that He who began a good work in you wil carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6 NIV).                               
"Be not carnally minded but be engaged in wholesome thinking, as we clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:1).                      
"Be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2 ESV).
                
 For brevity sake, the above is an abbreviated list of commands and warnings that God has given us for our benefit and well-being. That is why it is critical to study and uncover the deep treasures that His Word holds for us.
    
This brief study of think, speak, do, and be, caused me to understand the extent of what I was asking of God and what that request requires of me every day. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 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 29:11-13)

This is a wonderful promise to all who faithfully and diligently pay attention to God's commands and warnings. Then we can take hold of the promised hope and a future beautifully designed by our Creator.

God encourages us to seek Him now with our whole heart while He may be found; call on Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6). For He truly desires fellowship with us, so that we may really know Him. When we do, He will respond with magnanimous love as He shares His heart and instructs and guides us in how to navigate this challenging world in which we live.  

PRAYER: FATHER, You care for me so much that You know every detail of my life, every thought, dream, hope, fear, and every word before I speak it. May my goal always be to think and meditate on your Word, to speak Your Word in faith, to do Your Word, and to be a living testimony of Your Word. In Jesus name, amen.

Monday, February 18, 2019

ROOTS THAT GROW DEEP

On February 13, 2019, the sound of chain saws and wood chippers awakened me out of a much-needed sleep. The snowstorm of December 9, 2018, had deposited as much as nine inches of heavy, wet snow on parts of East Tennessee and various parts of the Carolinas. Unfortunately, the weight of the snow, along with unseasonably hard rains, had brought down many thousands of trees in those areas.

Local tree removal companies advised our HOA that because of the overwhelming demand for their services, they would not be available to remove the 60-plus fallen pine trees in our subdivision until February of 2019! Fortunately, one company agreed to remove trees that had blocked roads and driveways in our community of homes. As we marveled at the enormity of the storm's devastation, my husband and I never imagined that we could be caught in the aftermath of the event.

December 26, 2018, we were traveling through the Tennessee Mountains when an accident brought traffic to a standstill. As we sat on the narrow highway with pine trees bordering each side, we waited for the accident to be cleared. Within moments of stopping,  I noticed movement off to the right of our car. At first I was puzzled, then suddenly the ground gave way and a large pine tree came crashing onto our car. As I tried to process the shocking event, I noticed that the entire tree, roots and all, had come out of the ground!

The tree was too big and too heavy to lift off the car, so we inched forward to escape from under it. With each inch we moved, there was a loud grating sound, causing us to believe that damage would not be minimal. 

Traffic began moving, and eventually we reached a rest stop to assess the damage. Much to our amazement, not a dent or scratch could be found!

We always pray for God's sovereign protection over our vehicle and us before we travel short or long distances. That day, He answered our prayer beyond anything we could have imagined, because "He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).

The tree incident gave me a very visual understanding of what happens when our spiritual roots are not deeply anchored. "Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophies and empty deception, which are based on human tradition and the spiritual forces of the world rather than on Christ" (Colossians 2:7). 

Roots are anchors that require water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich soil. If these conditions are met, roots can grow to depths reaching more than 20 feet deep. If this criteria is not met, a tree without deep, healthy roots becomes unsustainable. Likewise, if we are not rooted and anchored in God's Word, our faith will never sustain us.

Jesus spoke a parable about why seed must be sown in good, rich, nutrient-based soil. "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and were trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold" (Luke 8:5-8) ESV).

"The seed is the Word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts (soil), so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the Word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and their fruit does no mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:9-15 ESV).

We live in a time when there is great deception and distortion of truth. Right is wrong and wrong is right; evil and sin abound. The Bible warns us that in the last days, lawlessness will abound and the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:9-12). However, God's truths anchor the soul and prevent us from being ensnared by the enemy. If the heart, like the soil, is not rich with His Word, then it becomes weakened and contaminated with worldly ideals, beliefs, and falsehoods. 

We must ask ourselves if our faith is rooted and grounded in God's Word, so that we can discern truth from lies? Are we ready to stand firm and not be easily moved by a worldly doctrine that approves of all sin and makes allowances for it? Will our faith carry us through the storms of life? 

We cannot have a sprinkling of God's Word and expect to be secure in our faith. Like trees, we need to be firmly rooted and grounded in the good soil of our heart where we have planted the life-giving seed of God's Word. Then when difficulties come, we will not be uprooted, but we will remain strong and full of faith as we stand on the truth of God' Word.

If we have discernment, wisdom, and knowledge through the Holy Spirit and the truth of God's Word firmly planted in our hearts, then we will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat (difficulty) comes; its leaves are always green (strong and vigorous). "It has no worries in a year of drought (lack) and never fails to bear fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Jeremiah 17:8; Galatians 5:22-23). God desires that we, His people, strive towards this goal, so that we may walk in bold and uncompromising faith.

PRAYER: FATHER, I look to You and Your Word to satisfy my soul. Help me to plant Your Word firmly in my heart, for Your Word is powerful and sufficient to satisfy all my needs. Let it nourish and encourage my mind, body, spirit, and soul, so that my roots will run deep and my faith will remain strong and secure. In Jesus name, amen.

NOTE: God has been daily impressing upon me the urgency for His people to know the truths within the pages of His Word. Even greater deceptions are coming and unless we know what God's Word says, then we will be open and vulnerable to those deceptions, for false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).


Sunday, February 10, 2019

POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE PRAYERS


When studying (James 5:13-17), the last line stood out like a flashing, neon sign: "The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective." The Holy Spirit then directed me to focus on one word—righteous.

We all want our prayers to be powerful and effective. What would be the point of praying, if our prayers were not powerful and effective? However, the strength and effectiveness of those prayers are predicated on righteousness, the Word, and faith in our Creator.

The dictionary defines righteous as being virtuous, upstanding, decent, ethical, having high moral principles, law-abiding, honest, honorable, and irreproachable. "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (Peter 3:12 ESV).

How do we attain the standard of righteousness? The Word tells us that "God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). In our own strength, it is impossible to achieve righteousness. However when we are totally surrendered to Christ and invite the Holy Spirit to operate in and through us, the Spirit of God makes it possible for us to walk in righteousness. 

The word, unrighteous,is defined as wicked, because unrighteousness is sin. Thus, the unrighteous reveal their hearts and attitudes in their behaviors, thoughts, words, deeds, and beliefs, all of which contradict and oppose the eternal laws of God (Revelations 21:8). They accept the world's morals and ethics, with the mindset that "we live in different times." However, God says, "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6). He does not and will not accept what He has already called sin.

God's Word is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89). "His counsel stands forever— the plans of His heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11). We can depend on this truth: "God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19 NIV).

God listens to anyone who repents of sin and is a worshiper of Him and does His will (John 9:31 ESV). He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

God calls us to draw near to Him, and He will draw near to us. "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8 ESV). God specifically calls the sinners double-minded, because they are undecided, unstable, and waver and vacillate in their relationship with Him. Like the Israelites who worshipped both idols and God, many Christians are double-minded. They "worship" God yet entertain all forms of sin, which is apostasy.

Apostasy is rampant within today's churches, and Pastor Allen Jackson of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, TN, succinctly states a fact about the Church and her apostasy: 

            "Apostasy is a religious word that means  literally 'falling away.' The children of Israel struggled with falling away. They didn't stop worshiping God or celebrating Passover and the festivals. They just expanded their options and also began worshipping Baal and other Canaanite gods. That's the imagery we get of apostasy. It's not that we reject Christianity completely; it's that we start to say, "We don't want to be hardcore about it.' We live in a generation of unprecedented apostasy. Never in the history of the Christian church have we seen so many people standing beneath the umbrella of Christianity, who no longer feel bound to the authority of Scripture as their rule of faith and practice—and many of them are leading churches and religious groups."

God addressed the church of Laodicea, "Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:16). Where are the bold Christians who stand for God's Word? Why is the Church remaining silent and not speaking against the abominations that have turned us into a pagan culture that justifies blatant sin and infanticide? The answer is fairly simple. Boldness can only come when we are convinced that God's Word is the one true authority governing man.

Bold faith rests on the authority of God's Word. That faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for those who come to Him must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Our hearts should be like David's when he said, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Psalm 42:1-2 NIV).

Are we thirsting for God? Are we diligently seeking Him? Do we desire to draw closer to Him, or are we satisfied with the status quo and ignore the sin we see? The Bible's truths prepare us and warn us that those who do not seek God and His Word will be blind to the Antichrist and his evil agenda, because the they will be looking for that man who will solve the world's problems and bring peace to the earth.

Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah foretold of Jesus' coming, "Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV). Jesus is the Prince of Peace, whom humanity should be seeking.

Israel became a nation in 1948. That extraordinary event started the countdown to Christ's return. And with that countdown, the Word warns that in the last days, men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, despisers of those who are good, traitors, and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

We must examine our hearts, while there is still time, and see if we have truly invested our lives in knowing God. Jesus said, "I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father, I have made known to you" (John 15:15 NKJV). We might know about God, and maybe at times we pray to Him, but do we pursue Him daily in sweet fellowship that enables Him to call us friend? Have we really surrendered our hearts and will to Him? Are we walking in righteousness, faith, and obedience to Him? Only then will our prayers be powerful and effectual.

PRAYER: FATHER, Your Son warned, "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times" (Matthew 16:3 ESV). I ask for the gift of discernment that I may know and understand the signs of the times in which I live. Help me pursue You with my whole heart. If there is anything that is preventing me from serving and loving You with my whole heart, show me those things that must be cast off. With the help of the Holy Spirit, direct me that I may walk in righteousness, so that my prayers will be powerful and effectual. In Jesus name, amen.