Standing Firm

My wife and I often speak with one another about how easy the world can sneak up in our lives. When you turn on a television episode, there is nudity and sexually explicit language on almost every show. When you change the channel, there is someone else committing adultery or otherworldly behaviors. However, when did this become OK? It is not OK, we just have been blinded by the worldly influences in our lives and simply have learned to tolerate them as we continue watching the television screen. For unbelievers, this is fine but not for Christians. Paul speaks to this situation as the “god of this world blinding the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the Gospel of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, NASB). For unbelievers, the world continues to blind them. Their environment has total power over their lives, whether it is on television or social media. However, Paul did not say “also for believers.” There has always been a separation between believers and unbelievers.

We live in the day of age where you cannot share your Christian values and love without being called names. When we do not accept the sin of others, we are the problem. When we do not conform to the current culture, we are left isolated and alone. This makes us vulnerable because people naturally want to fit in. Our culture does not allow us to show the glory of God through the image of Christ but it is fine to push the ways of the world on our children. However, I am not saying this to make us feel doomed. No, on the contrary, I am trying to allow my readers to understand the harmful situation the Christian culture is currently facing. We are called to not preach about ourselves, but to preach Christ as our Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5). We may not be popular with the crowds but it is what we are called to do. For it is written, “The light shall shine out of the darkness,”(2 Corinthians 4:6). This cannot happen when we are too busy trying to conform to this world. Ultimately, the physical must conform to the spiritual. This cannot happen if we continue to allow the world to blind unbelievers.

We have the knowledge of the truth, however, we are too scared to share it with others. This is a common conception held by many Christians and I just want to encourage us all today to stand firm in our faith. Do not tolerate sin in your lives. If the television series you like is going south, turn it off. If someone is speaking down on our faith or our beliefs, stand up and defend our faith, and pray for discernment when it is time to walk away. Sometimes walking away is not weakness, it is showing the strength of God in your life. Christians have always been called to be different. There is no difference between when Paul wrote this letter and the time that we currently live in. We have the light in us to help others find Christ. Use it! Don’t let others dim your light, because if it not for us to help guide unbelievers, then who is supposed to? Be different and be strong.

I want to pray today for encouragement and strength. I pray that we can all have the courage to stand firm in our faith and our beliefs. I pray that we can all identify any worldly influences that we may currently have and give it to the Lord. I pray that we stand out so brightly that people will be attracted to our Gospel like a moth to a bug zapper. This is what it means to be the light and I pray that we all have this ability in our daily walk. Amen!

Don’t forget to lift your veil!

For today’s devotional, I wanted to remind my readers that we are under the new covenant. What I mean is simple, being under Christ in the new covenant means that we are no longer to be hidden under the veil of the Old Testament. We are no longer under “The Law” because Christ fulfilled it. Yet, what is turning more people away from the church today is the church itself. More specifically, the body of believers that have become legalistic and their hearts have hardened just like the early Jewish people.

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Paul is speaking to the church in Corinth. He was reminding the early church that the law of Moses hardened the hearts of the people and was of condemnation. What he meant by this is that “The Law” opened the people’s minds to know what sin was and how to act, however, it also hardened their hearts because they were always judging one another. This led to so much legalism and the creations of so many laws that no man could honestly be found righteous. So, the people grew cold towards one another and to outsiders. Paul called this having “a veil over their hearts.” Their minds were free to see the Lord and know His commands but their hearts kept them from feeling the love through His Spirit.

Paul then continues to explain to the church that through Christ is liberty. There is freedom no longer living under the veil of the Old Testament because we are all provided the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our sins are forgiven and we are able to exchange that sin with Christ’s righteousness. This exchange allows for the transforming power of Jesus Christ to work in us and through us. However, why are so many of us forgetting to lift the veil over our hearts? Our covenant is not one of condemnation but of mercy, grace,and forgiveness. Yet, I keep seeing believers just as legalistic as the Jewish people in Paul’s time. We as a church body have placed so many rules and regulations on the people that have led them feeling so short that they won’t even grace the doors of a church building. We judge, we gossip, and we condemn others in such a manner that I wonder if we truly lifted the veil over our hearts when we said “I do” to Christ. Why hasn’t our change taken place? We are no better than we were without Christ if we do not allow Him to work in us.

The reason why I am writing this is not to condemn people but to bring this real issue to light. Our Gospel is not one of legalism, ceremony, and tradition; it is a Gospel of the glory of our savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that allowed us to be in fellowship with the Father once again. It is a Gospel of the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity). Our Gospel is not one of condemnation and judgment, and we need to remember this simple truth. When we can do this, our actions will reflect the Gospel instead of our words. This is what it means to be a new covenant believer. The old is dead and gone, and we are made into a new creation. This can not happen if we continue to allow our hearts to stay hardened. We need to be able to walk out our faith instead of speaking about it with others. This is what Paul was telling the early church and this is what I want to share with you all today.

So for today’s prayer, I just ask for the Lord to remove the veil that covers many of our hearts. I pray for the Holy Spirit to allow us to share our personal transformation in Christ with others. I pray that the same mercy, love, and grace that we hold dear in our hearts to be mirrored to those around us. I pray that we can be the generation to stop allowing our own legalisms (traditions) from keeping the church pews from growing, and people from being reached. I pray that we can all come together in prayer and live out our faith instead of just talking about it. This is how we can change this generation for the better. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.

A Lesson on Character

It is written, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame,” (1Corinthians 15:33-34, NASB).

For today’s lesson, I would like to cover this important piece of Scripture with everyone today. There are two applications being taught in these words, however, I only hear people preaching about one application being brought to light. So, I would like to briefly explain the implications of the character of the people we subject ourselves to, and our own personal character. However, before we start, I must go over the biblical definition of character. A person’s character is based off their disposition thoughts, intentions, desires, and their actions. Godly character is the work of the Holy Spirit working in a believers life. The Holy Spirit, oftentimes by trails and tribulations will mold us to become morally stronger. A believer can not be sober-minded, nor can they stop sinning without the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives. With this understanding, I would like to continue.

When it comes to our company, Paul was not speaking about the people we work with or the people we are trying to minister to. What Paul was speaking of was our own personal inner circle. The people we rely on and trust in our daily needs. If we choose to surround ourselves with the wrong type of people (company), their bad habits can stain our character. What that means is how they act and speak will rub off on us. If you are around people that gossip every day, over a period of time you will find yourself gossiping. If you are around people who are prideful and angry, you will find yourself eventually getting prideful and angry over small things. This principle is as true now as it was when Paul was writing this message. We have to be mindful on our relationships with others. If your inner circle is a bunch of unbelievers, how is that helping you grow in character and strength? If you are going through difficult situations, who will pray for you and provide you with wise biblical counsel? If the answer to both of these questions is no one, then find yourself a new company that will not stain your character but who will refine it.

Secondly, Paul is having his readers look inward at themselves to answer the question “why is good character important”? In verse 34, Paul identifies that we must be sober-minded and ought to stop sinning. Why is this so important? It is because he continues by saying that“some people have no knowledge of God.” When Paul wrote this he had shame in the church of Corinth. Their words and actions were not correlating with the Gospel. The reason why it is so important to have good character is not for our personal growth but to be able to share the gospel with others. People do not care about how well you speak or how educated you are. People only care about if your actions line up with your words. If you call yourself a Christian, and you are prideful, angry, and gossip; then your actions do not line up with the Gospel you are preaching. That my friends will turn more people away from Christ than Satan himself.

I pray that we can all take a deep look in the mirror today and absorb this piece of scripture and its two applications. I pray that if we are surrounding ourselves with people of bad character that we can have the strength to cut those relationships and have the courage to build new godly relationships. I also pray that if we are the ones with bad character, I pray that we can repent of them and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to continue to mold us to be a better version of ourselves. I say this frankly because if we cannot be the biblical examples of a disciple of Christ then we should not be proclaiming his Gospel in hypocrisy, and this takes the discernment that only the Holy Spirit can provide in our lives to do so. So, Father, I finish this prayer with a petition for an extra portion of your Spirit in our lives so that we can walk in a manner that is becoming of the sacrifice of your Son. Amen.

The Proper Foundation

I was reading today, and something jumped out of the page at me. I was reading 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and Paul is speaking to his audience about love. I enjoyed the reference that if he had the power to move mountains but did not have love, he was nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). He also spoke about giving everything he had to the poor but without love he was nothing (verse 3). Paul then goes on to explain that love never fails (verse 8). However, what jumped out of the pages and grabbed me was when Paul made the statement that spiritual gifts can come and go but love will always remain. 

Paul is teaching that love never fails. Our talents and abilities may come and go; however, we should be using them to glorify God and to advance His kingdom. Since God is love (1 John 4:8), everything that we think, say, and do should be founded on that love. Therefore, it will never fail. My wise wife always tells me that people will always remember how you made them feel instead of what you did for them. I believe her statement encompasses what Paul is trying to say to us all. If love is not the reason why you are moving mountains, then you should not move a mountain at all. The motives behind our actions is the key to determining if we should be using our gifts and talents. 

If you are using your gifts and abilities to glorify yourself, you are not only fooling the people around you but yourself as well. Once people get what they want from you, they will soon be out of your life. However, if you spend the time to lay a foundation of love, and people know that love is the reason for what you do, they will always be a part of your life. Therefore, love is foundational for everything. Without love we are nothing because we are empty. We cannot call ourselves Christians and not love others as we should love ourselves (Mark 12:31). 

So, I just want to pray with and for anyone reading this today. I pray that the same love that died on the cross, conquered death, and dwells within us all will overflow in our hearts. I pray with this love, we can treat others with the love and respect that we demand for ourselves. Amen. 

Run from it run!

Today’s lesson is about running from sin. Often, I have heard from people that they had too much temptation to sin that they had no other choice but to sin. Whether their sin was a struggle with adultery, idolatry, or other more explicit sins, it does not matter. Next time you are feeling tempted to sin, remember my words “run from it run.” It is written, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB). Simply stated, God will always give us a way out of our temptation. A perfect example of this is found in Genesis 39:12. In Genesis 39:12, Joseph was being tempted to commit adultery by his boss’s wife. However, unlike most people, he knew the only way out of his situation was to literally run away from it. It may have not been the manliest thing to do, running away from a girl that wanted him, however, he knew it was a temptation that would lead him into sin. As a human, I am sure that Joseph could have thought to himself, “no one would know.” However, Joseph knew that God was always watching. 

The reason I am writing this lesson is to remind everyone here today that we can never be tempted beyond our limitations. It is written that God will always provide a way out. So, if you are stuck sinning because of a temptation, simply remember to look for God in the situation. He will always provide a way out of the situation. At the least, you can learn from Joseph and look for a door or a window to run out of. It may sound silly, but I rather look like a fool than to fail a test from the Lord. You are strong enough to overcome any temptation and remember it. Our strength comes from the Lord! That is why the Scriptures teach us that no one can stand against us. So, I ask everyone here today if they are being tempted, dig in your heals and run from it run! 

Don’t be rigid!

Today, after I was praying, the Lord placed a short message on my heart that I wanted to share with everyone here today. I think being rigid is a part of our human nature. By rigid, I mean being inflexible and stuck in our ways. Often times, this can keep us from receiving a blessing from the Lord. This blessing could be assistance with a personal struggle or addiction, or it can be to help build a relationship with someone we care about. However, to be able to receive the fullness of the Lord’s blessings in our lives we need to stop being so rigid. When we are rigid, we grow stagnant and refuse to grow into the best version of ourselves. We need to learn how to be moldable for the Lord and this will be the focus of this devotional today.

Isaiah 64:8 identifies God as the creator (potter) and humanity as a lump of clay. I believe that this is not a coincidence. It is the best example that a human can have when attempting to identify themselves with their creator. A lump of clay starts off rough around the edges and has to be slowly molded into what the potter wants. Then, the potter slowly starts to make some changes and takes a step back. The potter may want to slowly change some things about the piece of clay or make some drastic changes to the piece of clay. However, the potter is always looking and molding that piece of clay so it can be the best version of his idea before the potter places the piece of clay in the oven to bake. The reason why the potter puts so much work into the clay is that they want to make a perfect vessel. It does not matter whether the potter is making a cup or a bowl, the same amount of effort must be made to complete the process. However, the wonderful thing about this process is how the potter is constantly molding the clay until it is ready to stand firm (by baking the clay).

Like a potter, the Lord wants to mold and sculpt us to a better version of ourselves. He does this by slowly taking away some things, and in other times, rapidly changing our perspectives or surroundings. God does this because He loves us and wants to be continuously growing. We need to understand that none of us is a perfect creation. We will always need some adjustments throughout our life. This adjustment can be our attitudes or the relationships we allow ourselves to be a part of. However, if we get too rigid and stuck in our ways, the Lord will not be able to mold us further because we are not willing to bend for Him. I think the apostle Paul stated it best when he identified that a lump of clay can be made into something of honorable use (Romans 9:21). The message Paul wrote is the same message that I am wanting to share with everyone, each and every one of us can be made into something of honorable use. We cannot do this is we are stuck in our ways. We need to be able to be molded into what God wants us to be and not what we want ourselves to become. When we can do this, we can receive the full blessings the Lord wants to provide us. However, if we cannot, we are not only robbing ourselves of the fullness of the Lord’s blessings in our lives.

Having a Support Team

Thinking back over my life, I have fallen short many times. To be honest, I think everyone here could say the same. However, the one thing that has kept me striving to be a better husband, father, and Christian is the love of my support team. This team is my wife, my friends, and my siblings. The truth is, that no one that has ever succeeded in anything has done it on their own. It takes the prayers of some, and the actions of others to allow us to have a victory in our lives. When I think of the perfect biblical example of this idea that I am sharing with you all, I think of Exodus 17:8-16.

In this piece of Scripture, Moses sends out Joshua and his men to fight against Amalek in Rephidim. The Bible teaches us that Joshua was faithful and gathered his men to fight against those who wished harm against their people. However, the story does not finish there. Moses stated that he would go to the top of the hill and lift his hands and pray over the battle to be won. Then something amazing happened, as Moses lifted his hands, Joshua and the Israelite people started to win. However, whenever his hands got tired and he dropped them, Amalek started to prevail.

Then, as Mose’s arms grew tired Aaron and Hur supported his hands. This allowed for the Lord’s favor on Joshua and his soldiers. Joshua won the battle, and everyone could not deny the faithfulness of the Lord and His providence over His people who had faith in Him. However, the real lesson that I gained from this Scripture can be applied in two simple ways and I am humbled to be able to share them with you all today.

First, everyone has a role or destiny that God provides them with. When we can accept our calling and embrace it, the Lord can work in our lives. In this piece of Scripture, the soldiers were fighting. They were nameless, however, without their sacrifice there would not have been a battle, to begin with. Then there was the military leader Joshua, it took his decisiveness in the field to allow his smaller forces to defeat the larger army. Then there was Moses. Moses was there for spiritual support and prayed and petitioned the Lord for the soldiers. Lastly, there was Hur and Aaron. Hur and Aaron literally held up the heavy arms of Moses and carried a part of his suffering to win the battle. Each person in this Scripture had a job and did it to the best of their ability. If they did not, the Israelites would have failed and lost the battle. So, if you are not a Moses or a Joshua, be a soldier, an Aaron or a Hur. At the end of the day, this shows others the Christ-like humility in our hearts. Be whatever God is calling you to be and embrace your role. It doesn’t matter what your role is, we all play a part in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The second and most important thing that I would like to share is that the battle was won because of everyone’s faith in the Lord. Faith is not a word, it is an action. Some people had to fight, some people had to pray, while others needed to support the rest. The common denominator was that they all did their best and acted out their faith. It is not easy going into battle, nor praying with your hands in the sky until they feel like you’re holding bricks, but it was done. Every day we have a choice to fight a battle for or against the Lord. It all begins by winning the battle in our minds and conquering our fears and anything that is keeping us from walking out in faith. So, if there is anything holding you back from giving God your very best and allowing you to defeat the armies against you, surround yourself with a support team as Moses did. By having those around you that will fight with and for you, and having those who will pray and support you, there is nothing that can defeat you or even steal your joy. They will give you a piece of mind and through the common love of Christ in each and every one of you, you will do the same for them.

I would like to finish this devotional with a simple prayer. Lord, I pray that everyone who is reading this devotional can take comfort in understanding the calling you placed in their hearts and minds. I pray for them to be supporters if you called them to be supporters. I pray for them to be warriors and leaders if that is what you called them to be. I also pray for them to be encouragers and supporters if that’s what you called them to be. However, I mostly want to pray about the godly relationships in their lives. I pray that you place the people in their lives that will build them up and not set them back as you showed us in your word with Moses. I pray that we call can have the courage to walk out our faith. Thank you for the sacrifice of your son and thank you for allowing us to leave the worst parts of us at the foot of the cross so that we can be instruments for you to use to expand your kingdom while we are on earth. Amen!