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Are You Spiritually Minded?

1 Thessalonians 5:  16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

You may be more familiar with other popular versions that read “Rejoice always” and “pray without ceasing”.

I don’t know about you, but this has been one of the most challenging passages of Scripture for me.

“Always be joyful?” 

Are you kidding me? That was hard for me to read. The idea of being filled with joy always is something I could not grasp. It was a foreign concept to be sure.

“Pray without ceasing?”

How does that work? I’d always say to myself. I’d pray in the morning, and 10 minutes later prayer would be the absolute last thing on my mind. Then toward the end of the day I might think “Did I pray this morning? Did I even think about God today?”

And then the hardest of the three…

“Be thankful in all circumstances” 

Forget it, next verse…

When we read something that is beyond our comprehension it is very difficult to process. It’s almost like reading a foreign language and it just doesn’t make sense.

Although these verses didn’t make sense to me and I couldn’t relate at all to them, what they clearly revealed was a deficiency in me. They indicated how far off I was from His standard.

Paul is charging the Thessalonians (and now us) to live a higher standard of living, and personally, I do not know very many people who even want this, let alone work for it. I think for many this bar is set too high, it is unattainable. That’s what I used to think. I’m not saying that I am living this way as consistently as it says, but I see a vast improvement to where I was before I started seeking God seriously.

I’d like to focus on verse 18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Let’s face it, this is a tough verse. Not only does it say to be thankful in all circumstances, but that it is God’s will for you. Imagine, Bills are late, be thankful. I lost my job, be thankful. My spouse is ready to walk out on me, be thankful. In a natural sense, this is a totally ridiculous idea. In the natural, there’s really nothing to be thankful for and why would there be, without any kind of supernatural perspective, life just stinks in those circumstances.

Has Satan ever spoken through you?

Consider these verses:

Matthew 16: 21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

From my boyhood years, I always remember this as “Get thee behind me, Satan!” from the KJV.

Notice verse 21

The Master is explaining to His student what lies in the future. He’s simply revealing God’s will for Himself. Naturally, Peter has a hard time with this news and, from a natural perspective it just can’t happen. Naturally what Jesus was saying did not make sense, but Peter was not seeing this with the proper, supernatural perspective as we learn from verse 23. It seems to me that Satan prompted Peter to say what he did, that’s how I see it. Not that Peter was possessed, but that Satan inspired him to rebuke Jesus. This was clearly a temptation from Satan through Peter, not unlike the temptations Jesus faced during His fast, only indirectly.

This is spiritual warfare 101

This can be seen in our lives from day to day once we’re attuned to it. For example, any encouragement to not spend time with God when we know in our hearts that we should is from the evil one. There is nothing more important than spending time in the Word and in prayer from day to day, but they can be the most challenging things to do and I think it is because of spiritual warfare. It’s difficult to even when the habit is developed, let alone when there is no habit.

This illustrates why it is so important to have a spiritual or heavenly perspective of things. When we don’t, things never make sense, we become frustrated, disappointed, and work against God, rather than with God. When we have the heavenly perspective that He wants us to maintain (prayer without ceasing), although we may be perplexed at times, we know that God is in control and that all things work together for our good.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Only when led by the Spirit…

Only with a supernatural perspective can we be thankful in response to negative circumstances. Romans 8:28 is a great verse to memorize and/or meditate on if you don’t already.

I think this is one of the most unbelievable verses in the whole Bible. I think if we really believed it deep down in our hearts, then being thankful in all circumstances would not be difficult. This is the kind of truth that really sets us free. When we trust in Jesus with our hearts and believe that He’s got it all under control, regardless of what craziness happens in our lives, we still have eternal life with Him to look forward to and the peace that surpasses all understanding right now

Other than salvation what better news could we have?

Is it any wonder why God continually tells us “Do not be afraid”? Maybe it’s because we have absolutely nothing to fear when we trust in Him completely. But we can’t really trust in someone we don’t really know, which is where the Devotional Time enters in and why it’s so important.

Philippians 4: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

“Dear Lord, I love you. You are holy. You are so great and faithful. Who am I that you even consider me? Your Words can be challenging to me, but I long to understand them and appreciate them more and more. Please be patient with me as I struggle to comprehend your truths. Help me to know you more and draw me close to you. Thank you for teaching me! In Jesus’ name, amen.”

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If you desire a closer walk with Jesus, just want more fellowship or "Bible Time" come join us at TheBibleTeam.com. We have weekly calls where our sole focus is spending time in God's Word.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Do You Know That “One Thing”?

Jeremiah 29: 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord.

I know that for some of you this message may seem like a “broken record” (remember vinyl records?) but I feel compelled to analyze a core biblical concept that relates to everything we’ve discussed over the past five weeks. The concept is this: “remaining in Him

John 15:  5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

Another popular translation:

John 15:  5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (NASB)

The practice of abiding in Him cannot be emphasized enough as it is the key to growing spiritually. It is also the difference between life and death. Jesus continues…

 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

It only makes sense. The spiritual world mirrors gardening in so many ways. Not only do we reap what we sow, but if we are not growing, we are dying. Just like any relationship, it either moves toward oneness or isolation.

Although the Bible can sometimes be mysterious and complicated, there are core doctrines (teachings) that are very simple, understood by all readers, and repeated throughout all of Scripture. Do you know how a speaker will sometimes say “If you receive only one thing out of this message, this is it.”? I believe the message of remaining in Him is the “one thing” that really matters.

1 Corinthians 13: 1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

There’s that word “nothing” again. We can do nothing apart from Him and we are nothing if we don’t love others. We cannot love others apart from Him. Only because of His love are we able to truly love others. He is the one who created us, in His image. We enjoy life only when we work with Him, but are nothing and have nothing when we’re not working with Him. This is all by His design. He simply wants us to respond to His love, to turn to Him:

Matthew 4: 17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

This was His main message. He began His ministry with this message and the rest of His time on earth He taught how to live it. Repenting and turning to God is not a “one-time” event. As long as we pursue Him He requires continual repentance. This is dying to self. We are counted righteous and Holy in Christ Jesus, but He continues to transform us when we submit to Him.

In light of all this, doesn’t make sense that His greatest commandments are as such:

Matthew 22:  37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

This is the “one thing” that God wants us to get and in doing so we remain in Him. The rest of Scripture helps us to get to understand Him better. The more we understand Him, the more we can trust Him and learn how to really love Him. He not only tells us what we need to live and have eternal life, but also how to achieve it.

John 3: 36 And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

This belief in God’s Son for most starts out at an intellectual level and for some it is emotional or both. God wants this belief to grow deep in our hearts. The levels of belief are quite evident in Scripture and we observe the disciples achieving a deeper and deeper level of conviction as they witness Jesus and His works. As the disciples walked with Him on a daily basis, so are we to do so, this is what discipleship is all about. Over the past five weeks, I covered the essential disciplines.

Wherever you’re at, regardless of how your relationship is with God, let go of anything keeping you from getting to know Him more. I know I may be the only person telling you “read your Bible daily”, but let this brief, weekly message sink deep. Think hard about who Jesus is to you and how you relate to Him. Is He the most important person in your life? Are you at peace with that? Or do you desire something greater?

Luke 13:  22 Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”   He replied, 24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

Do not allow your failed, broken and strained relationships keep you from knowing God. Do not put the failures of your parents on Him. He keeps His promises, He is gentle and sweet. He is completely reliable and will never let you down. If you can trust Him with your salvation you better believe that you can trust Him with all your daily cares and worries. He is always there for you and desires you to become one with Him. You’ll never find a greater person to fall in love with. The investment of time and losing whatever else that has to go by the wayside, like you, is worth it. You need to just keep pursuing Him, asking Him to reveal Himself to you. Consider what the apostle Paul had to say regarding himself:

Philippians 3: 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

Matthew 13:  44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. 45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Will you remain in Him?

“Dear Lord, I do want to know you more. You’ve been so good to me and you’ve blessed me in so many ways that I don’t know how to thank you. You are so great and have been so patient with me. Please help me do whatever it takes for me to move closer to you. Teach me your ways as I become one with you. In Jesus’ name.”

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If you desire a closer walk with Jesus, just want more fellowship or "Bible Time" come join us at TheBibleTeam.com. We have weekly calls where our sole focus is spending time in God's Word.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Are You Doing The Small Things? part 5

Before I get started, for those of you who are wannabe readers but are not currently in the Word, please find a link below to create your own reading plan. And also, will you please let me know that you’ll follow a plan by replying to this message with a simple “I’ll follow a plan”?

Psalm 119: 34 Give me understanding and I will obey Your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.

 Let’s face it, the Bible is massive, compared to most books anyway. To the uninitiated, the thought of reading through it is daunting. This is no surprise; after all, it includes 66 books which contain 1189 chapters! Where does one start? How do you know what you should read next? These thoughts and related questions used to haunt me. I’d have enough guilt that finally the idea came to me to just read the book of Romans.

Can anyone relate to this?

So I made an attempt to read Paul’s letter to the Romans. That worked out for a little while. I started to read it daily but got busy and I’d skip a day here and there, no big deal, right? I’d eventually finish the book, but with little momentum. Then I’d think to myself “What’s next?”. I’d eventually pick another book, days later, and “attack” it in the same manner, which was not with a whole lot of zeal. My Bible reading habit mirrored my faith, which was lukewarm.

Revelation 3: 15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Anything but lukewarm!

This is not a good verse to identify with, but that’s where I was. I had no real eagerness to read the Good Book, nor did I have any consistency.  Now that I look back on it, of course, I wasn’t very eager, I wasn’t planted in very good soil. A big reason is that there was no one to coach me or inspire me enough to get me started, but was I ready to listen anyway? Were these just excuses?

They were and I knew better. In my heart, I was convicted about reading the Bible. I knew that I should’ve been reading His Word. Besides these excuses, I was labeled a “slow reader” in middle school and that was a big deterrent for me. “I’m not much of a reader.” I’d say to myself. I allowed my past to dictate my present. Although I might read through a book or two, I’d lose momentum, and the “worries of this life and the lure of wealth” (Matthew 13:22) would stifle my reading altogether.

The Christian faith is not for spectators.

It is one that requires participation if any growth is to be expected. To follow Jesus with my whole heart requires all of me, just as the greatest commandment states: “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). The effort put forth into seeking Him wholeheartedly is not easy, but it is incredibly and indescribably rewarding. The joy, the security, the sense of purpose, the sense of belonging and the unnatural peace are benefits that cannot be overrated.

John 4: 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!

These benefits are greatly undervalued by the world, but what do they know anyway? The world is trying to tell us that if we only won the Lotto everything would be great, while the God of all creation is telling us to forsake everything and follow Him.

Luke 14: 33 “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

Reading the Holy Scriptures cannot be overemphasized.

I really hate to say “You have to read the Bible.” But tell me this, how else will you gain an understanding of God as the verse in Psalm 119 started us off? If you desire a “close fellowship” with Him, there are no shortcuts. Relying on sermons and second-hand, processed scripture found in devotionals (like this message) and the latest “Christian Best Seller” is not good enough. While there are powerful devotionals and great Christian books, they are not adequate substitutes for God’s personal Message. The Bible is raw, unfiltered and organic. It was not written to appeal to all readers and be easily understood by just anyone. He reveals Himself only to those who sincerely seek Him.

Hebrews 11: 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

People are dying because of the Word

Do you realize that there are Christians in remote parts of the world that would do anything to get their hands on the Bible? While here in the States, we have any number of Bibles lying around the house simply collecting dust. What’s wrong with this picture? In those remote Countries, they are willing to die for their faith, while we (the majority of self-proclaimed, North American believers) are not willing to give 15 minutes a day to get closer to God.

Talk is cheap. thirteen years ago I knew all the right words to say and knew enough about God that I could’ve fooled anyone to think I was a believer, but my heart was not in it. I didn’t really understand God, much less know how to love Him. It’s never just about our intellectual knowledge of Him. While this type of knowledge is an asset, what really matters is where our heart is. But the heart is not something we can change, that is His job when we give ourselves to Him.

This is the Divine Partnership.

He calls us, like when He gave you the idea to read this message, and you responded by reading it. He put it on your heart and you responded. These words are promoting Him and prompting you to get to know Him better. The question now becomes “How will you respond to this message?”. You can delete it and forget it, you can “repent of your sins and turn to God” (Matt. 4:17), or say “I think I’ll forward this to my friend who seems to be straying from God, as for me I’ll keep on reading the Word.”.

He calls on us daily to reach out to Him for fellowship. “Will we respond and how?” is the question we each have to ask ourselves. This partnership is meant to grow and develop into something beautiful, precious and fruitful, both for us and for His Kingdom. He actually takes pleasure when we move towards Him, it is mutually beneficial, which is really cool when you think about it.

Genesis 5: 23 Enoch lived 365 years, 24 walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

If you are content with your relationship with Him, then maybe you’re reading enough. How much is enough? That depends on where you’re at and where your conviction lies. I can’t tell you how much is enough. For me, I personally cannot get enough, but I am where He has led me and this was not my doing. I gave my heart to Him and He’s changed it dramatically since the time I was indifferent, about thirteen years ago.

I once was lukewarm, but now I’m passionate!

Although I knew Jesus and was introduced to Him as a child, I’ve grown more in Him these last thirteen years than the entire 38 years prior. He put it on my heart, late in 2006 to read through His Word in 2007. I responded and never looked back. He took me from a place of indifference to a place of being consumed by Him. He has truly turned my life upside-down and I am eternally grateful for that.

I haven’t got it all figured out, my life is not “perfect” by any stretch of the imagination, but I know in my heart that God is really good. I’m learning the secret, just as Paul did, about being content in any given situation. Just when I find myself losing my peace due to a change or disappointment, I’ve learned how to go to Him and find peace regardless of the situation.

Philippians 4: 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

I am certainly not telling you that you need to read the Bible in a year. While that is a great thing to do, that is too much to ask of many people. It was what I needed and keep in mind that I did not do it alone. My brother Jeff and my friend (and brother) Joe joined me in 2007; that was simply the start for me. The Scriptures came alive as did my soul. Along with the reading, my prayer life slowly started to develop. But at the start, I had very simple, short prayers as I was reading. These prayers went something like this “Lord, I want to know you more, please reveal yourself to me.” That simple.

Learn to be flexible, if you’re rigid, you’ll break and not be useful!

Tell Him that you desire more of Him, and just keep your mind open and do not be “set in your ways”. If you are truly ready for change, He will set things in motion to make that happen. So after praying these prayers do not expect your circumstances to get better, but expect to be drawn closer to Him. As you draw closer to Him there will be “growing pains” and there is a great purpose behind them as they are for your good.

Hosea 10: 
12 I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’

That being said, Paul had this to say and I encourage you to study these verses and meditate on them throughout your day. Reading the Word is “doing what is good” and there is no better way to love your neighbor than to draw near to God.

Galatians 6: 7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

How will you respond to Him?

“Oh Heavenly Father, please don’t give up on me. You seem so far away at times and I desire a closer walk with you. I want to know you as Paul knew you. Please change my heart that I may know you more and have a greater desire for your fellowship. Help me to understand your Words. Thank you for calling me and for your loving mercies. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Click here to create your own Bible Reading Plan!



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If you desire a closer walk with Jesus, just want more fellowship or "Bible Time" come join us at TheBibleTeam.com. We have weekly calls where our sole focus is spending time in God's Word.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.