About lisaterrell

Lisa is a wife, mother of three, Project Manager by trade from Dallas, Texas currently residing in Austin, Texas.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin

Staying true. Having resolve. Standing out. Not going along to get along. These can be commendable when speaking about someone or a group whose actions resulted in a benefit for the good of their people. But when it is in my head that my resolve is benefitting my own preferences or my personal priority because that is what I feel at the time, eeeehhhhh maybe it is not so commendable.

There is comfort in familiarity. I still consider Dallas my home, but I have lived away for more than half of my life now. Without some sort of GPS device or driver, I have no clue on how to get around there sometimes so when I do visit, I pretty much stick to where I know most of the time. And even then, the same familiar routes have changed quite a bit since I last lived in Dallas. The surroundings and landmarks and the communities do not look the same. It takes me a while to get used to the changes. It is difficult for me to receive or to give directions. I am not sure if I get lost in the new details or if I am just too focused on trying to recognize something familiar. A generation has passed on. Some traditions we still do and others we recount during gatherings. One such tradition is the homecoming for my maternal grandmother’s community. I had always lovingly called it ‘the eating church’.  For one Sunday in October we leave the big city and caravan across highways to paved roads to single lane dirt roads with no street signs. I always rode in the car with my grandparents because she would always be on time and my grandfather got a kick out of folk thinking I was his daughter and not his granddaughter. Dave always loved that. The devotion and congregational hymns accompanied by the piano, foot stomping on the wood floors and strong loud voices brings to mind movie scenes of timed pieces where there is the country church in the middle of a large field and you can hear the voices and movement far off. The young people in my family affectionately call it ‘the eating church’ because of the food, food, food, food. Everyone brought their choice prizes handmade by masters. O! M! G! When I left for school, I still did not miss the annual homecoming at ‘the eating church’. As my grandmother’s generation and those generations before her passed on, the attendance and offerings dwindled. There were periods the host church had no pastor. Our family caravan of vehicles became a single car.  Handmade choice offerings that made up meal courses became boxed, pre-packaged, generic contributions. I recently asked what happened to the homecoming. I was told that there was a lack of consensus of where to hold it. The community has a Baptist and an A.M.E. church. Some of those left in the community and descendants living elsewhere wanted to change up the host location. It doesn’t have priority on calendars.

In Chapter 4 of Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Rainer admonishes that a church can surely die when it does not and refuses to look like the community. It could be socio-economic, age or racial disparities. For those still in the church, the change and differences are not all of sudden. Things happen gradually. Members and families leave for whatever reason. Those who lived near have moved away. The younger generations do not stay or their activity wanes. Those inside of the church keep business and activity inside of the church. Those on the outside remain on the outside. “When a church ceases to have a heart and ministry for its community, it is on the path toward death” (Rainer, 29). Can you minister to those who do not look like you or reflect where you are in life? Does church or ministry have to be done in a certain way to have your commitment and participation? The self-centered, self-preserving attitude and actions of a member permeates into ministry and the collective church not reaching and caring for the community misses God’s calling to look outwardly (Rainer, 29).

Philippians 2:1-4 (GNT)

Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better then yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.

Questions (Rainer 30)

(1) Does your church try to reach and minister to its community, even to the point of giving up authority to better reach the people? Explain your “yes” or “no”.

(2) When does a church act like a fortress?

(3) How does Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian church relate to churches today impacting their communities?

Money and time are where we reflect our priorities and preferences. When we are self-centered and self-preserving, our time is spent on choices and conduct that makes us satisfied. We allocate and spend our money to satisfy our personal desires. When it is time cut the budget, funds are still “inwardly focused” (Rainer 32). Dying churches decrease or stop funding ministries and activities that reach the community. We look for or find comfort in a routine and we do not want it changed. Or we become so focused on being released from an assignment even if it means leaving. “We hold on to things [attitudes] because we want our way of life” (Rainer 35). Priorities are a reflection of your heart. When your heart is sick, you are not as productive. Things become a strain and eventually you no longer have life.

Mark 10:21-22

Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.”

Questions (Rainer 37)

(1) How would the budget and use of funds of a healthy church differ from that of a dying church?

(2) How does the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10 inform us about how a church might view the money it has?

(3) What are some ways churches can move their use of funds from predominantly an inward focus to an outward focus?

What do you think of with the word ‘rebellion’ or ‘rebellious’?  Does it connote bravery or pride or independence? Perhaps violence or treason or saboteur comes to mind? Do you think of a parent / child or a leader / group relationship? Or is it more of a reminder of historical attempts for liberation?

When you believe you have a choice, you respond according to your strongest reaction. Yes or no. Go or stay. Your feelings, your priorities and your preferences quickly lead you to your initial response. When you feel you have invested much you stick around and fight your cause even if it is in a covert way. Spending much time talking about and trying to recreate the good days or special milestones is choosing to not be in the present. Changes and activity that should be going on, are delayed, ignored and just plan denied.

“Going in Christ’s power requires effort. Certainly the results are dependent upon Him, but obedience is work. And obedience in His power means that we are praying to Jesus so we can reach others. That requires an “other” focus. This requires us to look beyond ourselves. That requires us to get uncomfortable. That requires us to go.” (Rainer 42)

Matthew 28:17 – 20 (GNT)

When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”

Questions (Rainer 45)

(1) Why do most dying churches have members who are nostalgic about the “good old days”? What are the biblical implications of that mind-set?

(2) Look at and describe the different parts of Matthew 28:19-20. Is your church more obedient or disobedient to those biblical commands?

(3) What is the relationship between Jesus’ promise to always be with us in Matthew 28:20, and a mind-set that focuses on one’s own comfort?

‘Till Death Do Us Part

This year’s GCBC Victorious Living Bible Study will use the book Autopsy of a Deceased Church (2014) by Thom S. Rainer as a source. Praises to God for who He is. Thank you to Bishop S. Lands, II for the encouragement, direction and care.

May I start with a pet peeve of mine? I cringe when a person says “I have been in church all of my life” or “I grew up in the church”. I am not sure if it is the humblebragging that gets to me or having to swallow the question “Oh yeah?” which is soon followed by a conviction for being judgmental. My mental finger pointing also has three fingers pointing right back at me. What are my church/ministry relationships? What is my service? How are my expectations, preferences and limit placements affecting the program and members of the past, present and future?

My aunt Momma Genetta does not want to miss any of her family in heaven. When you are born or married into the Cunningham/Anglin clan, you will know who Jesus is. And on your death bed, she will have a phone put to your ear if she is unable to get by your side to lead you through steps to salvation. Everyone – no matter your age and no matter your church roles or activities or for how long you are in a church ministry, she never presumes the response.  I was with her when she asked her father with gentle urgency while he was in the hospital. Dave seemed aggravated but confirmed he was already saved and Momma Genetta should have known that. Agitated, he asked for cigarettes. This is when I opened my mouth and fussed. This was familiar bantering between the two of us – Dave’s disgusting habit and my mission to help him quit. Besides, I had a new baby daughter that he had not met yet and he needed to get well and return home so she, too, could be spoiled by Dave. He never made it back home. No matter how sweet, sentimental and loving my focus that day, Momma Genetta clearly had her heart (spirit/character), head (soul/mind) and hand (body/action) aligned with God. Her heart is as tender as they come. She still talks about how much she misses Dave and she has some of the best stories to share about him; but when it came to the right priority at the right time, being familiar and comfortable had to wait. Momma Genetta asked her own mother when she was in hospice care. Meme was Sunday School teacher extraordinaire. If there was a pageant for Sunday School leaders, Meme would win champion year after year. Meme was the Mission ministry queen. She was faithful, active and sought after for support and service.  In her eighties, she declared herself retired from her church roles and responsibilities.  She still personally studied the Bible, prayed and meditated on the Word daily during her ‘retirement’. There was no coming out of retirement no matter who asked or begged. She would have none of it when her students planned to gather her home to continue having her as the teacher. She found that rebellious and counter ministry. She recognized and acknowledged that she could not be replenished and it isn’t about her. It is the church aligned to God that is replenished with relevancy and resources to carry out ministry to save, educate and liberate.

Death is permanent. Often we try to change behaviors and habits to improve the quality of and to give more time to our physical lives. Can we change our perspective and preferences to improve the quality of and give more time to the lives of our relationships and ministries? What entitlements and expectations and protocol are nonnegotiable? The first chapter of the book Autopsy of a Deceased Church tells that a church can die too. It is not necessarily a church that is empty or without saints or broke or without vision. Matthew  16:18 says “And so I tell you, Peter: you are a  rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able  to overcome it.” So when a church does die, how can that be? The book breaks down in subsequent chapters that decline comes with the decline of the following: “vibrant ministries, prayer lives of the members, outward focus of the church, connection with the community and the hopes and dreams of the members left” in the dying church (Rainer 13). It is not sudden.  There is a continual decay and collective choices that do not respond to addressing the principle relationships.

Haggai 1: 2-15

The Lord Almighty said to Haggai, “These people say that this is not the right time to rebuild the Temple.”The Lord then gave this message to the people through the prophet Haggai: “My people, why should you be living in well-built houses while my Temple lies in ruins? Don’t you see what is happening to you? You have planted much grain, but have harvested very little. You have food to eat, but not enough to make you full. You have wine to drink, but not enough to get drunk on! You have clothing, but not enough to keep you warm. And workers cannot earn enough to live on. Can’t you see why this has happened? Now go up into the hills, get lumber, and rebuild the Temple; then I will be pleased and will be worshiped as I should be.

“You hoped for large harvests, but they turned out to be small. And when you brought the harvest home, I blew it away.[a] Why did I do that? Because my Temple lies in ruins while every one of you is busy working on your own house. 10 That is why there is no rain and nothing can grow. 11 I have brought drought on the land—on its hills, grainfields, vineyards, and olive orchards—on every crop the ground produces, on people and animals, on everything you try to grow.”

12 Then Zerubbabel and Joshua and all the people who had returned from the exile[b] in Babylonia, did what the Lord their God told them to do. They were afraid and obeyed the prophet Haggai, the Lord’s messenger.13 Then Haggai gave the Lord’s message to the people: “I will be with you—that is my promise.” 14 The Lord inspired everyone to work on the Temple: Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah; Joshua, the High Priest, and all the people who had returned from the exile.[c] They began working on the Temple of the Lord Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month of the second year that Darius was emperor.

QUESTIONS (Rainer 15):

  • What was your church like when you first joined versus today? Do you see any signs of gradual erosion?
  • How is the neglect of building the temple described in Haggai 1 like gradual erosion today?
  • What do you think God meant in Haggai 1:9 by the phrase “while each of you is busy working on your own house”?

Change is inevitable. Time, in and of itself, brings change. It can be both exciting and scary. We use expectations, history, control, comfort, convenience, planning, personality, and fantasy – whatever we can use to help us manage and make sense of changes. In chapter two, Rainer notes that it isn’t a lack of Biblical teaching and preaching and believing occurring during the gradual church death. It was in house fighting for the past. Resistance was to keep things the way it used to be like the good ol’ days; keeping things the way as they wanted.  But though we revere and respect the past, we cannot live in the past. (Rainer, 18 and 21)

Hebrews 11 provides name after name of men and women who because of their faith obeyed God and are thus Champions. Preferences and styles did not take precedent. They did not act only when it was convenient and comfortable.

Hebrews 11:13-16 (GNT) 13 It was in faith that all these persons died. They did not receive the things God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them, and admitted openly that they were foreigners and refugees on earth. 14 Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 They did not keep thinking the country they had left; if they had, they would have had the chance to return. 16 Instead, it was a better country they longed for, the heavenly country. And so God is not ashamed for them to call him their God, because he has prepared a city for them.

QUESTIONS (Rainer 24):

  • Are there any areas in your church where you are resisting change simply because of your own preferences?
  • What is the common theme among the heroes of Hebrew 11?
  • Discuss Hebrews 11:13-16 in light of churches that die holding onto the past.

Spoiler Alert! Maturity Is Not Vicarious

Last week’s post reflected on struggles and challenges. I paid attention to the number of times I would think or say “I don’t want to” or “I don’t know how to” since then and I am ashamed. I need a “why?” app on my phone to get me to think before quickly resigning to the ‘ain’ts’.This summer has not been comfortable or convenient. But there is no season without opportunities or distractions, right? It is not the issue or the circumstance or the person. It is my response, my attitude, my alignment. When I think that a lapse of time means I have matriculated to a next or new level, I have yet another opportunity to learn or master a lesson. There is no age, no ancestry, no acquisition, and no human/earthly connection that can provide guarantees.

If you don’t learn the lesson the first time, God allows additional trials as instructors.

Trials are Lessons

Points ‘a’ and ‘c’ are based on faith.
Point ‘b’ is based on obedience.

Nothing in life is instant. We put limitations and carnal expectations on God. Where prosperity and success are in scripture, time is missing. We want to assign time. We have a “right now” perspective. A skewed perspective can lead to (1) lust of the flesh; (2) lust of the eye and/or (3) pride of life.

The lust of the flesh challenges the will of God and preys on physical appetites
• Things that gratify us
• Engages us through our senses
• We are invited to become fulfilled outside the will of God
Lust of the eyes challenges the Word of God
• Appeals to self-interests
• Tests God to make Him prove Himself
• It eats at our confidence in God
• I want to be placated or pacified (I need to know I’m important)
• More credence is placed on what we want to get out of something
• Fairy tales and fantasies are developed
• I make claims to stuff in the role(s) I have given myself
The pride of life challenges the worship of God
• Pride will make me want to prove my point
• God designed man to be in charge of the world; Satan got it by default (I John 5:18-20)
• Temptation is present to rule my world, destination
• Failures pointed out in significance, security and acceptance
• Not Christ focused but ‘me’ focused

Hebrews 12:1-13 – As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.” Endure what you suffer as being a father’s punishment; your suffering shows that God is treating you as his children. Was there ever a child who was not punished by his father? If you are not punished, as all his children are, it means you are not real children, but bastards. In the case of our human fathers, they punished us and we respected them. How much more, then, should we submit to our spiritual Father and live! Our human fathers punished us for a short time, as it seemed right to them; but God does it for our own good, so that we may share his holiness. When we are punished, it seems to us at the time something to make us sad, not glad. Later, however, those who have been disciplined by such punishment reap the peaceful reward of a righteous life. Life up your tired hands, then, and strengthen your trembling knees! Keep walking on straight paths, so that the lame foot may not be disabled, but instead by healed.

James 1:2-4 – My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trails come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trails, the result is the ability to ensure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Colossians 3:2 – Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth.

Psalm 34:19 – Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord saves them from them all

Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 – Be careful about going to the Temple. It is better to go there to learn than to offer sacrifices like foolish people who don’t know right from wrong. Think before you speak, and don’t make any rash promises to God. He is in heaven and you are on earth, so don’t say any more than you have to. The more you worry, the more likely you are to have bad dreams, and the more you talk, the more likely you are to say something foolish. So when you make a promise to God, keep it as quickly as possible. He has no use for a fool. Do what you promise to do. Better not to promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your own words lead you into sin, so that you have to tell God’s priest that you didn’t mean it. Why make God angry with you? Why let him destroy what you have worked for?

Romans 8:37 – No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!

I John 5:3-4 – For our love for God means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not too hard for us because every child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith.

During Our Trials of Life
1. Respond to trials – obey God
2. Regarding Unlovable people – love them
a. James 4:6 – But the grace that God gives is even stronger. As the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
3. Regarding Temptation – lean on the Lord
a. Trust in the Lord
b. Do not depend on yourself
4. Seek God’s will
a. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom
i. Proverbs 3:5-7 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong.
ii. Luke 9:23 – And he said to them all, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me.

Identify the source(s) of each trial and thank God
Philippians 1:29 – For you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him.

Recognize that “I am not what I’m in (problem/suffering)
I Peter 5:10 – But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.

We OUGHT to rejoice in our suffering. I know it is surely difficult to do this. But when we do not walk by faith which comes by the Word of God we are susceptible to an ungodly attitude. This attitude comes our as grumblings, and complaining. It is caused by a lack of trust in God and therefore we look for a quick escape. Obedience to God leads to contentment, not stuff and things and easiness. A Godly attitude is reflected in forgiveness, trusting God and patience. II Corinthians 12:9-10

Our attitude shows in our actions and our actions reflect our witness. Am I Godly or ungodly, especially during trials? The battle is won or lost in the mind.

Our Guidelines For Victory
1. Study God’s Word
a. II Timothy 2:15-19
b. If I can’t apply it, it will not work for me when I need it to leaving me in a cycle of pain and confusion
2. Pray without ceasing
a. I Thessalonians 5:17
3. Fellowship with saints
a. Acts 2:42; 46-47
b. We pay a price to deny the need for belonging
c. We are designed for community not isolation – interdependence
d. Be careful to not judge character (Romans 14:4) but meet the needs of others (Philippians 2:3)
4. Walk by faith
a. James 2:17
b. Hebrews 11:6
5. Obey God’s Word
a. Psalm 119:118
b. Psalm 119:129-130

Stay Thirsty My Friends

What can you not let go of?

For what do you thirst?
• Attention
• Being a part of an inner circle
• Better comparison to others
• Being a winner
• Having/sharing a good report
• Being right
• Satisfaction
• Good times
• Just surviving

As I embarked on my college career starting with University of Texas at Austin, my grandfather, Dave, admonished that I couldn’t come back home without a degree. We giggled about that, but he would add that he was serious. He was always my biggest fan. And every so often he would remind me of that when I made quick home visits or made an “I need, can you send” call. Years passed. I stumbled and fumbled with the struggles and distractions…OH MY…the distractions. When I thought of going home, I would say “Dave said I couldn’t”. When I did walk the UT stage, Dave’s health kept him from witnessing the milestone. Time after the ceremony, my spouse, children and I made a visit during Dave’s favorite holiday – Juneteenth. I got my usual special hug and kiss and before Dave let go, he whispered “you can come home now baby.” It had been years and some life changes since we mentioned that but neither one of us forgot. It was as if I had received a blessing.

We make constant decisions that impact goals, relationships, conversations, priorities and steps. Our temperament and expectations drive how we respond to direction changes, detours and distractions along the way. As much as we really want to control a situation, or make things sound and look, feelings are invoked to where we sense a need to feel better, to be vindicated, and to be/look/sound right as circumstances unfold.

How do I know if I am
• Supposed to be struggling with this (whatever this is)?
• Supposed to focus on this particular challenge?

We know we are to thirst for righteousness, for God, His way, His will. But when we are dehydrated (mentally, emotionally) we know we don’t ALWAYS FIRST reach for the water of life.

Challenges and struggles are never easy. The wrong motive and methods can make them even harder or maybe undo-able. And when it gets to the point where you say “I don’t want to” or “I don’t know how”, quitting or looking for distractions or going out with a bang seems inevitable.

II Corinthians 5:10-21

My spiritual maturity is dependent on faith and trust in God. My ego, my pride, my comforts, my feelings, my instincts, my sight create these hurdles and roadblocks.
“I have the right to respond.” “I have the right to ignore.”
“I have the right to be involved.” “I have the right to be left alone.”
“I have the right to know.”
“I have the right to be heard.”
“I have the right to have….”
“I have the right to be…..”

How do I handle ‘My Rights’? What are my rights?
When I hang onto myself (my rights) my soul is bound and I am denying Christ my life.

God provides
• Something to believe in
• Someone to believe in
• Someone who believes in me

Mark 10:17-22 17 As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone.19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and your mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” the man said, “ever since I was young, I have obeyed all these commandments.”
21 Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.

We have to die daily or we will complain about the hurt.

John 12:24-25 24 I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. 25 Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal.

Yield Rights in Difficult Circumstances

• To reach point B from A, I must go through the difficult circumstance
• If I refuse to go through the difficult circumstance then I will get cold and fall, but I will never fall below the solid line which is away from God’s protection; those who reject God’s way drifts from under the protective covering
• Growth requires going through difficult circumstances
• If I don’t die daily then points A – D become too much, overwhelming
• The goal IS spiritual maturity
• To reach the goal, God allows me to go through difficult circumstances to bring me to spiritual maturity

Steps to take to yield my right(s) and transfer to God.
1. Identify the right with which I am struggling
2. Confess my rebellion
3. Transfer the right to God (surrender)
4. Ask God to forgive me
5. Decide I will not operate outside His will/way (repent)
6. Thank God in ALL situations

Hebrews 6:16-18 16 When we make a vow, we use the name of someone greater than ourselves, and the vow settles all arguments. 17 To those who were to receive what he promised, God wanted to make it very clear that he would never change his purpose; so he added his vow to the promise. 18 There are these two things, then, that cannot change and about which God cannot lie. So we who have found safety with him are greatly encouraged to hold firmly to the hope placed before us.

Hebrews 6:4-5 4 For how can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent again? They were once in God’s light; they tasted heaven’s gift and received their share of the Holy Spirit; 5 they knew from experience that God’s word is good, and they had felt the powers of the coming age.

Sources of trials are (1) people, (2) circumstances and (3) self.

James 1:2-22 2 My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, 3 for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. 4 Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all. 6 But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind. 7-8 If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord.9 Those Christians who are poor must be glad when God lifts them up, 10 and the rich Christians must be glad when God brings them down. For the rich will pass away like the flower of a wild plant. 11 The sun rises with its blazing heat and burns the plant; its flower falls off, and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way the rich will be destroyed while they go about their business. 12 Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him. 13 If we are tempted by such trials, we must not say, “This temptation comes from God.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But we are tempted when we are drawn away and trapped by our own evil desires. 15 Then our evil desires conceive and give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my dear friends! 17 Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights, who does not change or cause darkness by turning. 18 By his own will he brought us into being through the word of truth, so that we should have first place among all his creatures.19 Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. 20 Human anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose.21 So get rid of every filthy habit and all wicked conduct. Submit to God and accept the word that he plants in your hearts, which is able to save you. 22 Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put it into practice.

Types of Trials are
(1) General
Romans 8:35-36 Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? 36 As the scripture says, “For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered.”
(2) Persecution
Matthew 5:11-12 11 “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.
(3) Affliction
II Corinthians 12:1-7 I have to boast, even though it doesn’t do any good. But I will now talk about visions and revelations given me by the Lord. 2 I know a certain Christian man who fourteen years ago was snatched up to the highest heaven (I do not know whether this actually happened or whether he had a vision—only God knows). 3-4 I repeat, I know that this man was snatched to Paradise (again, I do not know whether this actually happened or whether it was a vision—only God knows), and there he heard things which cannot be put into words, things that human lips may not speak. 5 So I will boast about this man—but I will not boast about myself, except the things that show how weak I am. 6 If I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will not boast, because I do not want any of you to have a higher opinion of me than you have as a result of what you have seen me do and heard me say.7 But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud.
(4) Chastisement
Hebrews 12:1-6 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4 For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5 Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. 6 Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”

“…but I know how to handle this…”
II Peter 1:3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own[a] glory and goodness.

“…I know I shouldn’t, but….”
Exodus 15:26 26 He said, “If you will obey me completely by doing what I consider right and by keeping my commands, I will not punish you with any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians. I am the LORD, the one who heals you.”

“…I can’t let go of what was said or done…”
Leviticus 19:17 “Do not bear a grudge against others, but settle your differences with them, so that you will not commit a sin because of them.

“…whoa is me…”
Psalm 71:20 You have sent troubles and suffering on me, but you will restore my strength; you will keep me from the grave.

“…I couldn’t just let it go…”
Proverbs 11:15 If you promise to pay a stranger’s debt, you will regret it. You are better off if you don’t get involved.

“…people I talked with agree with me…”
Proverbs 13:20 Keep company with the wise and you will become wise. If you make friends with stupid people, you will be ruined.

“…you knew I would react like this…”
Jeremiah 7:8 Look, you put your trust in deceitful words.

“…I don’t have to take this…”
John 16:33 I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!

“…this is hard…”
Acts 9:16 And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake.

“…I can’t see how this will work out…”
Romans 8:17 Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him; for if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share his glory.

“…I don’t want to…”
Philippians 1:29 For you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him.

“…but I just can’t do different…”
II Timothy 3:12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted

“…I am grown; I like what I like and no one has to know…”
Revelations 2:22 And so I will throw her on a bed where she and those who committed adultery with her will suffer terribly. I will do this now unless they repent of the wicked things they did with her.

• Praise
• Speak the Word
• Search the Word
• Share with a True Saint

Mem’ries, Light the corners of my mind…….

I shared in a post last year how I took an unnecessary next step with a pre-marriage counseling assignment. I actually mailed letters about feelings and thoughts I harbored over a decade. I can report that my father STILL has that letter. The letter is almost twenty years old, y’all. Of all the recipients, he brings it up and still wants to talk about it. But here is the thing….. I was ignorant as a kid and could not work through my feelings – just immature physically and emotionally. AND I was a dumb young adult deceived by my perceptions of what ‘should’ have been – immature experientially. I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT LETTER. It is so not relevant. I cringe when he gets the letter to cover some of the points and my mother just looks over whatever she is reading and smiles. She threw her letter in the trash after her once over.


Growing in Christ and not to mention embarking on my eighteenth wedding anniversary, one child grown and gone and two dependent ones in high school I NOW know to wait. Whatever I didn’t/don’t understand, truth will be revealed if I am open to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.


If I close my heart and mind and just resign to act out or speak out based on immature perceptions, I cannot be surprised when others interact with me based on that last act or word. Even if I believe I have moved on.


Integrity is who and what you really are.

When character is lost, all is lost.

Image is nothing without integrity and character to back it up. Galatians 6:3


In the quest for comfort, convenience, control, favor, bragging rights, a prize, a nod, a look…fill in the blank…..we can become careless and habitual in what we expect and how we deal with the circumstances (people and things). We age with these careless habits mixed in with knowing and doing some things according to the Integrity Screen. This moral malignancy doesn’t disappear or turn righteous on our command. In fact, these hard pieces come out on queue when certain personal and environment circumstances collide.


How do you prevent the hard heart process from reaching maturity?

  1. Fellowship/exhortation Heb. 3:13; Rom. 15:1
  2. The Word of God Heb. 4:12
  3. A life of prayer Heb. 4:14-16



Salvation brings a new capacity and a new way of thinking. It is a new capacity to love God. It is a new purpose to do the will of God. It is a new capacity to have a changed heart.


Hebrews 10:19-39 (GNT) says:

19 We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20 He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21 We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.

26 For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. 27 Instead, all that is left is to wait in fear for the coming Judgment and the fierce fire which will destroy those who oppose God! 28 Anyone who disobeys the Law of Moses is put to death without any mercy when judged guilty from the evidence of two or more witnesses.29 What, then, of those who despise the Son of God? who treat as a cheap thing the blood of God’s covenant which purified them from sin? who insult the Spirit of grace? Just think how much worse is the punishment they will deserve!30 For we know who said, “I will take revenge, I will repay”; and who also said, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!

32 Remember how it was with you in the past. In those days, after God’s light had shone on you, you suffered many things, yet were not defeated by the struggle. 33 You were at times publicly insulted and mistreated, and at other times you were ready to join those who were being treated in this way. 34 You shared the sufferings of prisoners, and when all your belongings were seized, you endured your loss gladly, because you knew that you still possessed something much better, which would last forever. 35 Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward. 36 You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises. 37 For, as the scripture says,

“Just a little while longer,
    and he who is coming will come;
    he will not delay.
38 My righteous people, however, will believe and live;
    but if any of them turns back,
    I will not be pleased with them.”

39 We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we have faith and are saved.

An Offer We Can’t Refuse

I am The Godfather series f-a-n. I watch it at least ten to twenty times a year. I know.

The fun now is watching for and catching the little things – words, expressions, background, movement. This calendar year I have watched it about seven times now. There is one particular line that has been sticking with me. The scene is patriarch Don Vito Corleone sitting in the garden with son Michael Corleone who has been given the family business reigns. Don Corleone is giving advice and inquiring about home life and he says “…..I spent my life trying not to be careless. Women and children can be careless, but not men.” 


Whhhaaaaat?!?! I don’t always roll my eyes at that part anymore but I still mumble ‘yeah, right’. Don Corleone may have ignored or excused poor choices and a lack of integrity in women and children, but we know consequences do not discriminate.


No matter how we justify, explain, or compare to feel better about ourselves and our decisions, each of us has to treat each new week, day, hour, minute and second as opportunities to grow – to mature. 


Living victoriously requires maturing.


Ephesians 4:15 says “Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head”.


The most important thing is expressing faith in love. We often make fear, or pride, or tradition the basis of faith. Failing to mature spiritually will result in the inability to experience the freedom of walking spiritually.


I am subject to the power of sin in my attitude, words, decisions, and ambitions without maturing. This is living beneath true freedom. I am therefore always in contention and getting beat up by the enemy AND causing others to stumble. I will find myself at fault or blame someone else for circumstances and challenges. I will not reflect the glory of God in my life. I will be kept down with my focus on the world during this period.


Do not get caught up into existentialism (just existing for the moment) and hedonism (feeling good). The enemy keeps the looking and the feeling good. And let’s face it; we are attracted to feeling good.

John 8:31-38 says So Jesus said to those who believed in him, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. We are the descendants of Abraham,” they answered, “and we have never been anybody’s slaves. What do you mean, then, by saying, ‘You will be free’?” Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever.  If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are trying to kill me, because you will not accept my teaching.  I talk about what my Father has shown me, but you do what your father has told you.”

I may believe in Him, but not obey. If I don’t obey then I am not a disciple. I may be in the church with position or ‘good’ standing, but not have God’s influence in my life. Satan’s influence and falling into temptation (through my feelings, fears, or carelessness) will keep me in bondage with sin.




  1. We must seek to know God and how He wants us to walk right in a relationship with Him
  2. Ephesians 4:11-13
  3. Hebrews 10:19-25
  4. We are to grasp our true identify in Jesus Christ
  5. Are we ignoring when we fail to live up to our identity?
  6. What excuse do we use to justify for this failure?
  7. We must accept the reality that Satan is real
  8. Maturity is a lifetime process
  9. Freedom is an event; a choice made over and over and over
  10. 2 Peter 1:3
  11. Maturity is a continuing process
  12. Freedom is the position we take
  13. We must assume personal responsibility for our own maturity and freedom
  14. Philippians 3:12-16
  15. Galatians 5:1
  16. Psalm 51
  17. Psalm 32
  18. Our nature, history, habits, beliefs did not just appear; it was a length of time. So our maturity will take time; we must be deliberate with each word and deed


Cultivating a relationship with God requires me plant seeds that take root in the ground and produces fruit as a result of a relationship with Him.

  1. Psalm 107:37
  2. Galatians 5:22-23


The ground is me – heart (spirit), head (soul) and hand (body).

What is in the ground – my nature, beliefs and character – will show in my acts, behavior and conduct.

  1. Mark 4:44
  2. Psalm 119: 9, 11
  3. Matthew 13:1-23
  4. Psalm 6:19
  5. Isaiah 28:24


In grade school, I decided I would become a musician. I selected the alto saxophone as my instrument. My grandfather procured one. My parents sacrificed money, time and their ears to lessons, performances and practices. It became a passion and I worked hard and excelled over the years. My fourth year, the band director really encouraged and supported student efforts. We wrote and scored material. He let us form independent groups. Yes I had one – an all-female group, but I cannot recall the name of it. It was all a blast.

There was a time period when the director brought in seasoned and professional musicians to coach select students 1:1. I was super excited. The expert I was with shared some highlights from his career and asked me what I wanted to do in the future. I told him I wanted to play my horn maybe like Bobbi Humphrey and Sheila E on their respective instruments – didn’t have to be a solo star…..but work in the studio, be a band member, teacher, whatever. His laugh was throat deep. And he ‘schooled’ me on not wasting my time on such a pipedream. My manners stayed intact for all of our sessions, but my pride made sure he saw/heard my abilities and I stayed focused to get from him what I needed to finish that year with top scores and rank in competitions. I am not sure if he was tired or hungry that day. Perhaps he had a disagreement with a wife, girlfriend or daughter. He could have had a recent rejection or he was on a mission to pick off potential new crew one by one. Don’t know. At the end of that school year, I put my horn down. I just stopped. I passed the horn to my little sister and encouraged her through college.

This reflection is not centered around the gentleman’s words and demeanor. Yes – we are to watch what we say and speak to benefit others and glorify God. But I allowed that seed to stay. I evidently watered and nourished it until I acted on it. I came to believe I needed to do something else. Whenever I was asked about why I stopped, this was never part of my explanation.

I am not longing to get back into playing. I just wonder about other seeds. In the Women Walking in Victory Bible Study class, it was reiterated how we have access to Holy power that will help us reject such seeds even demons. It has nothing to do with our power or ability. We just need to recognize at THE right moment when to call on the name of the Father. In HIS name we reject whatever compromises our faith, obedience and growth in God. Going through the motions does not stimulate growth. Laying the start or fault with another person is stifling. Prevention requires upfront and timely action. Excision can be painful and without a lifetime or side effect guarantee.

You cannot become more spiritual until you know who you are.

Central Questions
1. Definition – Who Am I (in this situation here)?
2. Purpose – Why am I here?
a. Jeremiah 29:11 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.
i. Clear on the destiny in God
b. Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it.
i. Part of an overcoming church
c. Galatians 3:27-29 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
i. Roots of a saint
We are spiritual heirs of Abraham. All the promises given to Abraham are also to us. From Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we know we are the image of God.
3. What am I prepared to die for?

We are to submit to the will of God.
Ephesians 5:10-20 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]
4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

God expects us to think.
Romans 14:5 – One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
He expects us to discern His Word. You can only use the mind that has been transformed to come to the right conclusion. You don’t think new thoughts on your own. You must have the Holy Spirit guiding your new thinking. Check with God first, then make your decision. Ask yourself the following (integrity screen questions).
• Is it the right thing?
• Is it for the right reason?
• Is it the right way?
• Is it the right result?
• Will it benefit the right people?
• Will it glorify God?
• Is it according to His Word?

1 Peter 1:13-16 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Apply the integrity screen to
1. Words
2. Deeds
3. Thoughts
4. Attitude
5. Relationships

How are you practice the mind of Christ?
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
1. It is not a surface change
2. It is a metamorphosis – a complete one
3. It is inside – out
4. It is a continuous process
Victory is not assured because it looks like a victory or because of indicators. It is because of to whom we belong and who is in us.
You cannot start it (growth), stop and continue to grow. You will go backwards.

1 Peter 1:13-14 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.


transform 1

Ready! Aim! Fire!

Have you ever been soooo determined to get something or do something? You reached out, you dedicated time towards it and you were convinced it was the way to go. I certainly get that way. I talk to God about it. I talk to others about it. I confirm to myself what the benefits will be. I shoo away thoughts of negative consequences or ignore warning queues. I especially close the door on the motive – not what I say out loud – but my heart motive. Is it a trust issue? Is it a faith issue? I try to use the integrity screening to check myself – do the right thing, the right way, for the right reason, expecting the right results (all results), to benefit others and glorify God. I confess I don’t always screen…..with integrity that is. My screening can be biased – what I want, when I want, for my reason because I want to think I know what I need to target to make be happy.

God gave us free will. We use this free will to shoot at targets of our desires to fulfill needs and wants. We often think because we are clear where we are aiming, we will have a solid shot. But if we had a close-up view of our target paper, it would be so tattered from the shots we took aiming and shooting at every spot but THE RIGHT TARGET. God wants our target to be Him. Do we agree there is nothing from which He should be excluded? If this is true, then that bull’s eye center (God) should be the only spot marked by our aims. Does my circumstance dictate my aim? My feelings control my trigger? Am I even working on MY target sheet?

Target Acquisition means having a clear vision of the target. At what am I trying to shoot? Am I randomly firing my resources or am I focused on what I need to hit?

Romans 1:18-32
18 God’s anger is revealed from heaven against all the sin and evil of the people whose evil ways prevent the truth from being known. 19 God punishes them, because what can be known about God is plain to them, for God himself made it plain. 20 Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. So those people have no excuse at all! 21 They know God, but they do not give him the honor that belongs to him, nor do they thank him. Instead, their thoughts have become complete nonsense, and their empty minds are filled with darkness. 22 They say they are wise, but they are fools; 23 instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made to look like mortals or birds or animals or reptiles.
24 And so God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts desire, and they do shameful things with each other. 25 They exchange the truth about God for a lie; they worship and serve what God has created instead of the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever! Amen. 26 Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. 27 In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their wrongdoing. 28 Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God, he has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that they should not do. 29 They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice. They gossip 30 and speak evil of one another; they are hateful to God, insolent,[a] proud, and boastful; they think of more ways to do evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no conscience; they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or pity for others. 32 They know that God’s law says that people who live in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very things, but they even approve of others who do them.

1 Corinthians 3:18-21
18 You should not fool yourself. If any of you think that you are wise by this world’s standards, you should become a fool, in order to be really wise. 19 For what this world considers to be wisdom is nonsense in God’s sight. As the scripture says, “God traps the wise in their cleverness”; 20 and another scripture says, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are worthless.” 21 No one, then, should boast about what human beings can do. Actually everything belongs to you
1 Corinthians 4:5
So you should not pass judgment on anyone before the right time comes. Final judgment must wait until the Lord comes; he will bring to light the dark secrets and expose the hidden purposes of people’s minds. And then all will receive from God the praise they deserve

What is your target? Your Aim? Your Vision?
Your focus is based on faith which is based on fact.

THE TARGET is your walk before the Lord.

Who I am is meaningless unless I KNOW what that target is to look like.

The target is the right result. We get there by asking “What does God expect?”.

target acquisition

What is YOUR target?
1) God wants us to do what is right. Joshua 7:1 – The LORD’s command to Israel not to take from Jericho anything that was to be destroyed was not obeyed. A man named Achan disobeyed that order, and so the LORD was furious with the Israelites. (Achan was the son of Carmi and grandson of Zabdi, and belonged to the clan of Zerah, a part of the tribe of Judah.)
a. When fact and faith are off, then your focus is off.
b. Eliminate any thoughts, practices or possessions that hinder our devotion to God.
2) God wants us to do what He considers right. Judges 17:6 – 6 There was no king in Israel at that time; everyone did whatever they wanted.
a. God sets the standard.
b. Just because we think it is right, doesn’t make it right.
3) God’s Word reveals to us what is right. Isaiah 5:20 – 20 You are doomed! You call evil good and call good evil. You turn darkness into light and light into darkness. You make what is bitter sweet, and what is sweet you make bitter.
a. Romans 1 tell us we have no excuse. Prov. 17:15 – Condemning the innocent or letting the wicked go—both are hateful to the LORD. Matthew 6:22-23 22 “The eyes are like a lamp for the body. If your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eyes are no good, your body will be in darkness. So if the light in you is darkness, how terribly dark it will be!
b. And reiterated in Luke 11:34-35 34 Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35 Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness.
4) God has built an awareness of what is right into every society. Romans 2:12-15 12 The Gentiles do not have the Law of Moses; they sin and are lost apart from the Law. The Jews have the Law; they sin and are judged by the Law. 13 For it is not by hearing the Law that people are put right with God, but by doing what the Law commands. 14 The Gentiles do not have the Law; but whenever they do by instinct what the Law commands, they are their own law, even though they do not have the Law. 15 Their conduct shows that what the Law commands is written in their hearts. Their consciences also show that this is true, since their thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them.

Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Yielding to a distraction will ALWAYS lead to consequences. Last week, a distraction led me into a car accident. Oh how I buy the lie that there is a little more room to engage in something else that is outside of the present mission. Multi-tasking used to be an in word – that you were a hard worker, a super worker, do it all. Ummmmm, it is more like unnecessary risks are taken, will overcommit, be unfocused.
Giving in to a distraction is gambling with your first commitment. That first commitment is the one that should command your attention, engaging all of you – not empty promises, not left overs, not when you ‘feel like it’. Procrastinating with your first commitment can cost your life or the life of someone on the journey with you.
The first commitment requires nurturing with a whole heart. Taking your ‘eyes’ or heart or mind off of the first commitment can become habitual and eventually what seemed so natural and easy to manage will become a heap of mess. Using my strength only will result in many heaps. But guess what? God IS faithful. There is no guesswork. We have what we need to know to commit to freedom and maturity in Him. But, we have to keep our eyes on the road.

Characteristics of a Spirit Filled Life
Ephesians 5:18-21 18 Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: 19 speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; 20 always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 and submit to each other out of respect for Christ.
• Speaking ≠ Silent
• Singing ≠ Crying
• Giving thanks ≠ Ingratitude
• Submitting ≠ Rebellion

Satan’s strategy – Scarcity vs. abundance
1. Try to get you to think of the fact that God should give you everything. Genesis 3:1 – The snake was the most intelligent[a] of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”
2. The idea that there should be no restriction in the perfect plan of a good God. Darkness is believing you need time for yourself. Have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:1-8 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit,[a] and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain[b] equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.
3. Focus on God’s Restrictions instead of his provisions

To Answer: What about taking care of me first?
• Romans 8:29 – Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope
o God desires for us to conform to the image of His Son who died for us
• Luke 9:23 – 23 Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.
o No negotiating picking up Jesus’ cross – forget who you are outside of Him
• Matthew 6:21, 24, 31, 33, 34 – 21 For your heart will always be where your riches are. 24 “You cannot be a slave of two masters; you will hate one and love the other; you will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 33 Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.
o David recreated himself by being in the Word

When you only think about what you don’t have, then that will become your focus and you then lose your abundance. The scarcity vs. abundance situation and Satan’s Strategy situation happens in the soul section (heart).

We try to make a bad thing look right. When we think…, we do wrong. Genesis 3:6 – 6 The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it. – Eve began to examine the fruit. Only she could convince herself to do wrong.

Anytime I choose things from MY WAY, there are consequences.
My motives, beliefs and values play into my decision making.
• God’s Way → Benefits
• My Way → Consequences
o We even stay in a commitment because we think our consequences are placating God. It isn’t.
o We are in a situation when we find ourselves constantly complaining about the circumstances.

A promise from God
• Joel 2:18-25 – 18 Then the LORD showed concern for his land; he had mercy on his people. 19 He answered them: “Now I am going to give you grain and wine and olive oil, and you will be satisfied. Other nations will no longer despise you. 20 I will remove the locust army that came from the north and will drive some of them into the desert. Their front ranks will be driven into the Dead Sea, their rear ranks into the Mediterranean. Their dead bodies will stink. I will destroy them because of all they have done to you. 21 “Fields, don’t be afraid, but be joyful and glad because of all the LORD has done for you. 22 Animals, don’t be afraid. The pastures are green; the trees bear their fruit, and there are plenty of figs and grapes. 23 “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice at what the LORD your God has done for you. He has given you the right amount of autumn rain;[a] he has poured down the winter rain for you and the spring rain as before. 24 The threshing places will be full of grain; the pits beside the presses will overflow with wine and olive oil. 25 I will give you back what you lost in the years when swarms of locusts ate your crops. It was I who sent this army against you.
• You have to recognize your motives were out of rebellion and repent to Him with a pure heart
• Romans 8:28, 29 – 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him,[a] those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers.
• Once my focus is changed, God can make any relationship work. The change has to come from me first. When you get into “I”, the focus is my way. When you focus on God, you toughen up and you don’t think about the hurt and pain.

Romans 5: 1-5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast[b] of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! 3 We also boast[c] of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope. 5 This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.
• We are made right in God’s sight through faith; peace with God is through Jesus
• Through our faith in Christ, we face a bright tomorrow
• Rejoice!
o When? In problems
o Why? They produce patience
o Why? Character is developed and there IS hope
o Result? No disappointment – being able to rise above every circumstance

Romans 12:2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
• The mind MUST be transformed.
• Your mind functions the same, the output is related to the new nature (freedom, maturity in Christ) or the old nature (habits, reflexive behavior).
• The transformation process means you now know the Word of God AND you now have a CHOICE whether to do right or what you want to do.

II Peter 1:2-11 May grace and peace be yours in full measure through your knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own[a] glory and goodness. 4 In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. 5 For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; 6 to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; 7 to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. 8 These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if you do not have them, you are so shortsighted that you cannot see and have forgotten that you have been purified from your past sins. 10 So then, my friends, try even harder to make God’s call and his choice of you a permanent experience; if you do so, you will never abandon your faith.[b] 11 In this way you will be given the full right to enter the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
• Know Jesus better and better
• It is overthinking I need other things to have a better life


Need Milk and Sugar With That?

My love for coffee began around the age of eight or nine. My visits and stays with my grandparents always included a cup of coffee my grandmother, Meme, would make for me when she made a cup for herself and my grandfather. My cup was full of cream/milk with a splash of coffee and sugar. Ohhhh what peace I felt sitting in the formal dining room with them looking out the picture window sipping coffee, reading the newspaper and planning the days. When I first tasted black coffee and espresso during college I was disgusted and couldn’t believe folk actually had coffee that way. It was too hard and harsh. I wanted that milk or cream. It makes the coffee easy, sweet and smooth never mind the extra calories and sugar. This is still my preference. But with the right flavor and freshest bean, I can appreciate and even enjoy the ‘hard stuff’.

This study has often mentioned the Biblical reference of milk as substance for the immature, weak, tender, and slow. Once we are regenerated (accept/confess Jesus), we are given substance beyond milk when we receive the Word (through preaching, teaching and reading). Do you recognize when you have been on milk for too long or when you actually prefer to not take it in? Fear, pride and logic rule in certain or all parts of our life instead of the Word. We look for the miracle or the choices removed for us before we walk in faith and freedom. We are not immediately punished or individually corrected or called out so we don’t make efforts to mature.

Just as I perceived the perfect cup of coffee as an opportunity for a peaceful sitting, receiving and being the Word of God is true and actual peace. There is nothing that the Word does not address. Even when we think our current reality is all well and together, milk cannot satisfy a growing, maturing Christian. Be careful of reading or hearing the Word believing there is no need for you to consider or apply.

What or who is prolonging your weaning from milk? I cannot stay on (or go back to) milk thinking it is enough for my maturity and faith growth. We must allow our palates to take and chew on the truth – not just the easy bits.

Hebrews 5:4-10
4 No one takes this honor for themselves but takes it only when they are called by God, just like Aaron.
5 In the same way Christ also didn’t promote himself to become high priest. Instead, it was the one who said to him, You are my Son. Today I have become your Father, 6 as he also says in another place, You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.[a] 7 During his days on earth, Christ offered prayers and requests with loud cries and tears as his sacrifices to the one who was able to save him from death. He was heard because of his godly devotion. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. 9 After he had been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for everyone who obeys him. 10 He was appointed by God to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Genesis 14
14 While Amraphel was king of Shinar, Ellasar’s King Arioch, Elam’s King Chedorlaomer, and Goiim’s King Tidal 2 declared war on Sodom’s King Bera, Gomorrah’s King Birsha, Admah’s King Shinab, Zeboiim’s King Shemeber, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar. 3 These latter kings formed an alliance in the Siddim Valley (that is, the Dead Sea[a]). 4 For twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they revolted. 5 In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and the kings of his alliance came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in the mountains of Seir as far as El-paran near the desert. 7 Then they turned back, came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked the territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.
8 Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bera (that is, Zoar) took up battle positions in the Siddim Valley 9 against King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Siddim Valley was filled with tar pits. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah retreated, they fell into them; and the rest fled to the mountains. 11 They took everything from Sodom and Gomorrah, including its food supplies, and left. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom, and everything he owned, and took off. 13 When a survivor arrived, he told Abram the Hebrew, who lived near the oaks of the Amorite Mamre, who was the brother of Eshcol and Aner, Abram’s treaty partners. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been captured, he took all of the loyal men born in his household, three hundred eighteen, and went after them as far as Dan. 15 During the night, he and his servants divided themselves up against them, attacked, and chased them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all of the looted property, together with his relative Lot and Lot’s property, wives, and people. 17 After Abram returned from his attack on Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom came out to the Shaveh Valley (that is, the King’s Valley) to meet him. 18 Now Melchizedek the king of Salem and the priest of El Elyon[b] had brought bread and wine, 19 and he blessed him, “Bless Abram by El Elyon, creator of heaven and earth; 20 bless El Elyon, who gave you the victory over your enemies.” Abram gave Melchizedek one-tenth of everything. 21 Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and take the property for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I promised the LORD, El Elyon, creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I wouldn’t take even a thread or a sandal strap from anything that was yours so that you couldn’t say, ‘I’m the one who made Abram rich.’ 24 The only exception is that the young men may keep whatever they have taken to eat, and the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre—may keep their share.”

Hebrews 7
1 This Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he returned from the defeat of the kings, and Melchizedek blessed him. 2 Abraham gave a tenth of everything to him. His name means first “king of righteousness,” and then “king of Salem,” that is, “king of peace.” 3 He is without father or mother or any family. He has no beginning or end of life, but he’s like God’s Son and remains a priest for all time. 4 See how great Melchizedek was! Abraham, the father of the people, gave him a tenth of everything he captured. 5 The descendants of Levi who receive the office of priest have a commandment under the Law to collect a tenth of everything from the people who are their brothers and sisters, though they also are descended from Abraham. 6 But Melchizedek, who isn’t related to them, received a tenth of everything from Abraham and blessed the one who had received the promises. 7 Without question, the less important person is blessed by the more important person. 8 In addition, in one case a tenth is received by people who die, and in the other case, the tenth is received by someone who continues to live, according to the record. 9 It could be said that Levi, who received a tenth, paid a tenth through Abraham 10 because he was still in his ancestor’s body when Abraham paid the tenth to Melchizedek.
11 So if perfection came through the levitical office of priest (for the people received the Law under the priests), why was there still a need to speak about raising up another priest according to the order of Melchizedek rather than one according to the order of Aaron? 12 When the order of the priest changes, there has to be a change in the Law as well. 13 The person we are talking about belongs to another tribe, and no one ever served at the altar from that tribe. 14 It’s clear that our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, but Moses never said anything about priests from that tribe. 15 And it’s even clearer if another priest appears who is like Melchizedek. 16 He has become a priest by the power of a life that can’t be destroyed, rather than a legal requirement about physical descent. 17 This is confirmed: You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.[a] 18 On the one hand, an earlier command is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (because the Law made nothing perfect). On the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. 20 And this was not done without a solemn pledge! The others have become priests without a solemn pledge, 21 but this priest was affirmed with a solemn pledge by the one who said, The Lord has made a solemn pledge
and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever.[b] 22 As a result, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 The others who became priests are numerous because death prevented them from continuing to serve. 24 In contrast, he holds the office of priest permanently because he continues to serve forever. 25 This is why he can completely save those who are approaching God through him, because he always lives to speak with God for them.
26 It’s appropriate for us to have this kind of high priest: holy, innocent, incorrupt, separate from sinners, and raised high above the heavens. 27 He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. He did this once for all when he offered himself. 28 The Law appoints people who are prone to weakness as high priests, but the content of the solemn pledge, which came after the Law, appointed a Son who has been made perfect forever.

• Melchizedek was a picture of things yet to come; he was a type of Christ
• This is spiritual ‘meat’; if you cannot understand this then you are still on ‘milk’ and thus a babe in Christ
• We waste our time on milk issues; we are addicted to stay young and immature spiritually
• What are meat issues?
• Submission to authority
• Holding thoughts captive
• The Be Attitudes

Isaiah 29:21-24
21all who incriminate others wrongly, who entrap the judge in the gate, and pointlessly postpone justice for the innocent. 22 Therefore, proclaims the LORD, the God of[a] the house of Jacob, who redeemed Abraham: Jacob won’t be ashamed now, and his face won’t grow pale now. 23 When he sees his children among them, the work of my hands, proclaiming my name holy, they will make holy the holy one of Jacob, and stand in awe of Israel’s God. 24 Those who wander in spirit will have understanding, and those who grumble will gain insight.
• Good works are designed so that as you are blessed, others can see what God provides
• We should not acquiesce to the powers of this world
• You shouldn’t do good so others can give you praise/glory, but so that God may get the glory
• When your ego gets in the way, you ‘smell’ badly

Romans 8:29
29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters.

Ephesians 2:11-13
11 So remember that once you were Gentiles by physical descent, who were called “uncircumcised” by Jews who are physically circumcised. 12 At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God. 13 But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
• Do not try to fool others that you were holy all of your life

Ephesians 4:1-3
4 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.
• Be who you say you are
• A mature Christian will always exhibit an attitude of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:10) and an attitude of peace despite the circumstances; your God, the Father has the ship in control