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?

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‘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.

So TRUST GOD!
• 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.

 

I DO BELIEVE. I WANT TO MATURE.

 

  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