The White Horse Cometh

In this day in which we live there are several drivers of fear. The daily news of terrorist attacks, horrendous weather conditions, the financial instability of nations, constant rumors of wars, and events in the Middle East. The question is why?  The answer is that these events are purposely intended as a constant reminder that time is about to end. But did you know, it is not the aforementioned events that should primarily concern us?

These are not the first events which must take place, on a grand scale, before Jesus Christ returns! Look at Matthew 24 when Jesus spoke at the Mount of Olives. Matt 24:3 says, “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Notice what Jesus’ response was; especially, in the order in which it was provided:

“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matt 24:5, KJV). “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” (Matt 24:7, KJV). Now, compare this to Revelation Chapter 6. “And I saw, and behold a white horse:  and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” (Rev 6:2, KJV) – this is the horseman of false Christianity. “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” (Rev 6:4, KJV) – this is the horseman of war.

“And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.” (Rev 6:5, KJV) – this is the horseman of famine. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beast of the earth.” (Rev 6:8, KJV) – this is the horseman of pestilences. Can you see the direct relationship to what Jesus spoke and what John saw in his vision?

In understanding Rev 6:2, it is important to breakdown the passage:

  • And I saw, and behold a white horse:” This horse, although it is white, is not the same horse found in Revelations 19:11. This horse is a deception. Although it is the same color as the horse, on which Christ will ride, this horse represents false Christianity – one who claims to be Christ and will deceive many.
  • he that sat on him had a bow,” Jesus Christ was never referred to as One with a “bow.” A bow implies a warrior: someone who goes forth to destroy and kill. Jesus did not come to destroy and kill but to save that which was lost according to Matt 18:11 and Lk 19:10. So, who is the warrior with the bow? The first reference to a bow is in Gen 10:9, “He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” Several studies have translated this as meaning a mighty hunter who faced-off, or turned against the LORD.  Therefore, this horseman will attempt to destroy the true Church and saints who follow God’s commands and statutes.
  • and a crown was given unto him:” The key words are “a crown was given unto him.” This alone shows the white horseman is not Christ because God has many crowns. In 2 Thes 2:4, we read where a person will place themself in a position to wear a false crown: “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
  • he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Whilst there have been death and persecutions upon Christians for several decades, this is nothing to be compared to what will occur once this white horse and the horseman has been released to fulfill the start of the end-time. Rev 13:7 says, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”

As passages from both Matthew and Revelation have shown, the events are intended to make us aware of what is forthcoming. What does not seem to be visible is the real threat. The threat from false prophets and ministers because we live in an age where “everyone wants to be a part of the crowd, or no one wants to stand-out because of their disagreement with the majority.”

It is for this reason that we see Churches and religions accepting beliefs and standards that would have been unacceptable a decade ago. We see things in our congregations that make our head turn. How can the standards from which we were taught seem to be unimportant? What has caused us to drift from God? What has caused us to “no longer be a truly separated people?”

First, a true Christian should not fear religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam. In fact, we should never look at them in any comparative way (e.g., how they dress, when they pray, how often they pray, etc.). We should walk as God directed: be His witness to them, show them love and compassion, and tell them of His Good News. We must be a witness to them.

Do not let the devil create fear. Recognize that the devil is trying to get all “Christianity” to unite against Islam, and other religions, in an attempt to form a cohesive religious consortium that is watered down Christianity with much falsehood.

Second, and most importantly, our focus should be on identifying and not-following false Christian teachings. Matt 24:24 says, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”  So, how can we identify false teaching?

There are two Scriptures which give an answer: 2 Thes 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” 2 Tim 3:14: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” Therefore, the only way to identify false ministers and teachers is by following 2 Tim 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Cease from following others and basing your belief on what the “world is doing.” If everyone was going to heaven why would Isa 5:14a say, “Therefore, hell hath enlarged itself, and opened her mouth without measure;”

If you are one of those persons who spend their time watching renowned television preachers, I give you a warning! 2 Cor 11:13-15 says “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. “Therefore, it is no great thing that if his minsters also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Even though a minister may say something that moves your spirit, it does not always mean the spirit is from the Lord.

When listening to these preachers, do you really know who you are listening to? Do you know what they really stand for? Do you know what fruit they bear?  When you hear them preach the Word, do you go back and re-study what they have taught for your own salvation? And, most importantly, is there a Bible Doctrine they refuse to follow, practice, or teach because they are more interested in financial gain, the size of their audience, their own agenda, or the “tingling of ears?”

Instead of listening to these preachers, find an Apostolic Church that teaches the Bible doctrines taught in the Book of Acts and the Epistles. One that believes in God’s Plan of Salvation: the Oneness of God, true repentance, baptism in Jesus Name, the fulfilling of the Holy Spirit, the requirement to live a holy lifestyle, and being a separate and peculiar people.

If you are already attending an Apostolic Church, stop listening to renowned television preachers. Instead listen to the minister who has been placed over you and spend your time studying God’s Word. Change your perspective through fellowship and worship with others. Become involved with those who bear the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23, KJV) and righteousness (Phil 1:9-11, KJV). Let God direct you in what you need to understand. Remember what Jesus told His disciples when they could not perform miracles: “And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mk 9:29, KJV)

 Do Not Fear! “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” (Phil 4:13, KJV)

I am not asking you to automatically believe what I have written. I am asking you to “study His Word” and let Him speak to you.

 

The “Wildflower”

For the last two months, I have intensively studied the different types of sins; specifically, iniquity, transgression, trespassing, and sin. During this study, I have come to realize that sin is progressive in nature. In explaining this progressiveness, I would like to compare sin to a “wildflower.” Wildflowers produce deep roots which can withstands all types of weather or seasons. They produce unique flowers which develop into seeds. Then, as the wind blows these seeds are strewn so they can grow in undesirable or unwanted places. This is the same as sin.

Everyone experiences what I would like to call epidermal sins. Epidermal sins are sins that initially appear on the surface of the heart. However, they can easily turn into more progressive sins (i.e., trespassing, transgressing, or iniquity) if not overcome. Allow me to explain.

We daily experience things which cause us to fall short because things enter into our mind which is contrary to what God says. An example is when we become afraid, are anxious about the future, or we start complaining about anything. We become discouraged or unhappy because things don’t seem to be working out. Or we stop having trust in what we have been promised. So, what is purpose of these sins of discouragement?

They are an attempt by the devil to get a foothold on our life. They are what the devil uses to distract us, to take our attention off of God’s greatness, and hopefully cause us to falter. If we do not rebuke them, the devil will plant a wildflower seed in our heart. As it grows, it can turn into something more sinister, if not deadly – it will progressively get worse. If you have any doubt about what I am saying, simply look around you. Why are individuals willing to commit acts of terrorism or destruction? It is because the wind of sinful seeds has blown hatred and destruction into their hearts.

There are two ways to combat the wildflower’s seeds. First of all, when the thoughts of complaining, condemnation, doubting, sadness, shamefulness, unhappiness, etc., blow in your direction, rebuke the devil and pray against what you are feeling. For we serve a God who cares about His children. Stop focusing on your problems and what you are going through and remember what God told Ezekiel: “and ye shall know that I have not done without a cause all that I have done in it, saith the LORD God.” [Ezekiel 14:23b, KJV]

The second step is to seek forgiveness from God, and help from someone you trust wholeheartedly. Forgiveness is only a breath away: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsake them shall have mercy.” [Proverbs 28:13, KJV]

Find a place of worship, if you do not have one, and start fellowshipping with those who “are overcomers by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11b], and are “living a life of holiness” [1 Peter 1:16, KJV].

Then, get involved in a program where you can find an accountability partner. Find someone who can guide you toward a “recovery” from things destroying your life. But remember: It is not the program or the accountability partner that heals – it is God alone! The accountability partner is so you don’t have to walk alone!

“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to you an expected end.” [Jeremiah 29:11, KJV]

Wildflower

The Study on: “What is the difference between iniquity, transgression, trespassing and sin?” will be produced into an e-book and paperback format.  The author will give all payments and royalties directly to the Lighthouse Christian Ministries (UPC) Charity.  Follow me so that you will know when the e-book or paperback can be purchased.

Sins of Ignorance

I imagine some will read this title and think I have lost it.   Your Dictionary defines ignorance as meaning “being unaware, uneducated or unknowledgeable.”   However, I am referring to ignorance as “allowing ourselves to become easily distracted without thinking of the consequences on our spiritual life.”   It is this distraction that causes frustration, makes us feel defeated, and hinders our purpose in life.

You are not the first person this has happened to and you won’t be the last.  In Hebrews 9.7, we find reference to where in the Old Testament “the priest offered sacrifices for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance.”  To me, this scripture shows the people were not purposely disobeying the law.  They were being distracted out of ignorance.

So what are sins of ignorance?   I am sure there are many.   However, I have been shown there are two weapons that Satan uses the most to distract us from filling His purpose in our life:  (1) Procrastination and (2) Compulsiveness.   Procrastination causes us to delay the inevitable.  This delay will have an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual impact.  It will affect the way we see others around us.  It will result in blame against others when the task is not accomplished.  It will affect family life.  And it will affect our relationships with others.

Compulsiveness is an obsessive urge to do something in perfection. It is the need to check and recheck, to clean and re-clean, and to make sure the program plan has zero-errors.  It is expending energy unnecessarily.  It causes us to question or doubt everything.  It makes us focus our faults on others.  It creates confusion and fear.  It creates feelings of abandonment.  It creates mistrust.  It degrades us spiritually.  And, ultimately it creates feelings of loneliness because perfection “can never be attained”.

If you are committing sins of ignorance, don’t pick on yourself!   Romans 6.14 says “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (NIV) and Ephesians 4.7 says “But to each of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (NIV)  These two Scriptures show that Christ died to set you free from these sins.  However, to be set free, you must have faith and trust.  A trust that will carry you into the depths where survival is dependent upon holding onto the Master’s Hands!

How do I know if I am committing others?   Each of us is unique and has a special mission in life.  However, all you have to do is ask Him to identify your sins of ignorance.  As the Lord said in Job 40.7, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (NIV)   Ezekiel 36.26a says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (NIV)  Therefore, the answer is:  Have a conversation with Jesus – and listen to what He is telling you.  This is the only, 100% guarantee, we have in life!

Final Thoughts

To remove sins of ignorance from your life, take the next step:  Trust in Jesus!  Commit all of your life and will to His care and control.  During your daily repentance, ask Him to forgive you of any sins of ignorance, and to help you overcome them.  Then, as Proverbs 3.5-6 says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)   What else could you ask for?

“For the grace of God has given us salvation – it teaches us to live self-controlled, upright and Godly lives.”

It’s For Those Folks

Recently, I was listening to an announcement.  Whitney, the minister’s daughter, was encouraging everyone to attend the kick-off of the new Celebrate Recovery Ministry.  She wanted everyone to experience the benefit of discovering, celebrating and recovering.  Then she made a statement that brought back memories.  She said, “Some people would not attend because they think it’s for those folks.”

Two years ago, I lived in a newly built estate.  With the liquid sunshine, that England is known for, the front yard looked like a motorcycle course – muddy and slippery.  Finally, the folks responsible for maintaining the lawn decided to install a shrub wall.   But, guess what?  This did not stop people from stepping over, or between, the shrubs.  It did not matter that walking on the sidewalk was safer – they still walked in the mud.  In fact, I heard a visitor ask why the shrubs were installed.  The tenant replied, “It’s for those folks.”

How many times have we pointed at others?  Instead of facing ourselves, it is easier to say it’s their fault – they caused it.  I thought it took two to tango.  I thought it took two to have a conversation.  I didn’t realize that half the population was perfect and the other half had all the problems.  But apparently, some of us (try to) think so.

You want to know something?  Blaming is not new.   It has been around since the beginning of time.  If you study the Pharisees in the first four books of the New Testament, you will see what I mean. They were constantly looking for those folks who violated the law.  They memorized the law.  They wanted to punish the wrong-doers.  They thought they were helping Jesus by showing everyone their faults.

Like the Pharisees, some of us have missed the most important point.  Jesus came to help those folks.  He came to save those folks who suffer from bitterness, depression, fear, grief, hate, isolation, workaholism, imperfections – you name it.  As John 10.10 says, “My purpose is to give life in all it fullness.” (TLB)

So, why are we always saying it’s for those folks?  One six-letter word: DENIAL

Denial causes us to repress our feelings. We freeze our emotions. We neglect to see that it causes anxiety. We think we are getting away with our problems.  We think no one knows. We think it is easier to blame a problem on others instead of facing our real issues. But there is nothing further from the truth. Others know.

Over time, denial destroys relationships.  It helps problems fester and grow like an uncontrolled disease. It creates shame and guilt.  It creates resentment.  It creates worry.  It creates emptiness.  It creates blame.  And then, it creates loneliness.

So who are those folks?  Look in your mirror.  Start recognizing that you are one of those folksAccept that you have imperfections.  Accept that you need help.  And most importantly, take the next step past denial.  As James 5.16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that ye may be healed.” (NIV)  In other words, you cannot do it by yourself!

Final Thoughts:

As a child, my dad always said people in glass houses should not throw stones.  But today, we have missed the meaning.  The thin-pained glass has been replaced by Plexiglas.  Or, it has been changed to double and triple glazing.  This has made us more apt to throw stones – blaming it on those folks. It has shaded our view – we see our faults as the problem of those folks.  We overlook the point that we have to clean-up after ourselves after throwing the stones.

Next time, do not be so quick to say it’s for those folks.  Do not give a place to false security. Do not think no one knows your problem – they do!  Your problem is affecting them. Remember, God’s promise in Jeremiah 30.17, “I will give you back your health again and heal your wounds.” (TLB)

If you have done someone wrong – start on your journey to peace and happiness – stop denying.

Are You A Champion?

Recently I listened to the minister’s wife at Landmark Church ask a very simple question: “Are you a champion?”  As she fittingly noted, when someone mentions the word “champion,” there are several thoughts that come to mind.  Some think of Rocky Balboa and his run through Philadelphia.  Others start humming the Rocky theme song.  Then there are those who think of more recent events.

For example, the Australian Tennis Championships where the Women’s #1 was beaten by the #7th ranked player.  Or, maybe where the Men’s #1 became an all-time great with his 6th Australian Title.  But this is not the “champion” she was referring.  Nancy was talking about using the word champion from a grammatical sense.

Most people think of the word champion as a noun; to identify a person.  But she was talking about using it as a verb.  Yes, the word “champion” is an action word!  It means we speak-up in favor of or in support of someone.  We let them know that we miss them.  We let them know we love them.  We let them know we support them!

A champion is someone who is “with you, for you, and has your back.”  He/she supports you with emotions.  Their emotions, words and actions express true feeling.  You feel their sincerity.  You feel it in their writings.  You know it is heart-felt.  But why are emotions important?

In today’s society, the heart is thought of as the ‘sea of emotions and feelings.’  In ancient cultures, the heart was considered as the ‘center of knowledge, understanding, thinking and wisdom.’  This is in the same context in which the New Testament was written.  It means emotions have a significant place in both our natural and spiritual life.  Therefore, a true champion must have emotions!  A champion shows loving kindness.  A champion has compassion.  A champion cares about others.

To be a true champion, look around you.  Is there someone you truly care about, but have never told them?  Is there someone that you assume knows how you feel?  Is there someone going through a hard time and needs your encouragement?  Have you taken the time to tell that someone how much you appreciated them?  Did you provide the encouragement they needed?  Do they know how you feel?

As Philippians 2.1-3 says, “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor:  Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.” (MSG)  Wow!  This scripture tells us three things.  First, YOU have a champion – Jesus Christ.  Second, if Christ has made a difference in our life, why not make a difference in someone else’s  life?   And third, do not just think about yourself.

Final Thoughts:

Each of us experience life’s roller coasters.  There are days when we feel like we are flying in a cloud.  Then, there are days when we are facing our darkest hour.  But, it is easier to handle the darkest hours with encouragement and support.  As Ephesians 4.29 says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV)

So, do you know someone who is struggling in recovery?  Do you know someone who needs an encourager?  Do you know someone who is trying to accomplish something big for God or their family?  If you do, go to them and become their champion!  Their success may depend on you being there for them – even in the simplest of ways.

Christ is Your Champion!  If He made a difference in  your life – Make a difference in theirs!

Celebrate Recovery

Everyone likes a good celebration.  We celebrate when someone has an anniversary, the birth of a child, a wedding, or seeing a new believer born-again.   Why?   When we are happy we release the endorphin’s that block pain.  When we do not have something to celebrate, the opposite also applies.  We manage to engage in activities to distract us from our pain.

Over thirteen years ago, I came to England for a meeting.  During my travels, I spent a lot of time running in London’s Hyde and Kensington Park.  I did not need to lose weight nor did I need the exercise.  I needed to stop long enough for my mind to tell me I needed help! Why?  I was running from hang-ups.  I was running from bad habits.  And, I was running from Life’s hurts.

Then it all came crashing down!  I lost things that were important.  My marriage ended in a divorce.  I lost communication with my children and grandchildren.  I lost contact with my family.  I considered suicide on numerous occasions.  I helped someone “not commit suicide.”  However, she eventually ended-up in the care of a Community Mental Health Unit – and I was totally alone!  It was at this point I finally stopped running!  I did not know where to turn.  All I knew was there were no medicines that could help me.  So what did I do?

I contacted a dear friend in Lafayette, Louisiana.  The last thing I expected was to find out my friend was a preacher!  Since we were so far apart, in distance and time zones, we started having Skype Meetings on a weekly basis.  He heard my pain and saw my discomfort.  He understood my situation.  He recommended that I consider a “Christ-Centered 12 Step Program called Celebrate Recovery.”  Of course, my first question was “What is Celebrate Recovery?”

Celebrate Recovery is a safe way to address your hang-ups, bad habits, and Life’s hurts in the context of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.1-12).  He encouraged me to participate in this program because everyone has a hang-up, bad habit, or a Life’s hurt that keeps them from realizing their potential.  Since I thought my problem was depression, I agreed.  So, he sent me one lesson at a time for eight weeks.

After the first lesson, I did not understand why someone with depression needed Celebrate Recovery.  But, I did not give up.   After the second lesson, it changed.  Lesson 2 reminded me that someone cared about me.  It reminded me that someone understood my situation.  I realized I was “running from my inner-self.”  Lesson 3 really opened my eyes!  I realized I had more than depression.   I had hang-ups – anxiety and fear.  I had bad habits – bitterness, cheating, financial ruin, lying, and un-forgiveness.  I also had Life’s hurts – grief and pain.  I had a lot of baggage!

From Lesson 3 onward, I changed.  My lifestyle now included prayer, fasting, and daily reading of The Word.  I earnestly studied the Celebrate Recovery Lessons and the meaning of each scripture.  I started reading scripture references related to the Beatitudes.  Then the most amazing thing happened.   Over the next three months, I was slowly healed of all of my hang-ups, bad habits, and Life’s hurt; not just depression!  I learned the meaning of Celebrate Recovery.

Celebrate means to “engage in a joyous event in honor of an achievement.”  Recovery means “the return of health, balance, control, and something stolen.”  These two words represented me!  I can CELEBRATE because God’s guiding hand has turned my tears and fears into laughter and joy.  I have RECOVERY with the return of a peace that is indescribable.  I now see that LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.  I also know that as long as my faith is in Him, I have nothing to fear or regret.  I also know that I am not carrying excess baggage.

I no longer have fear and anxiety.  I no longer worry about my finances.  I no longer grit my teeth while sleeping nor do I wear a mouth guard.  I no longer judge what anyone says, does or wears.  I no longer get fever while driving or traveling.  I no longer live with anger, pain, or regret.  I have forgiven everyone who said anything nasty or unkindly towards me, or owed me any money.  I still have problems – but, I am not running!  I am now listening to His Spirit within me.  I am taking it one-day at a timeI am also re-learning how to communicate with my family.

Final Thoughts:

Please do not misunderstand me – this eight-week course did not make me perfect.   I still have problems.  I miss being close to my family.  I miss those who showed me love – but I did not appreciate it.  I pray daily for everyone whose life I added my messiness to.  But the “brightness of life” means I am no longer weighted-down with more than I can carry!  Life is enjoyable and live-able.  When I need help, I know where to go: to Christ in prayer.

I am so thankful for a dear friend who recommended that I participate in Celebrate Recovery!  I am most thankful that in all the messy things that I did, God protected me.  I also find comfort knowing that He is protecting and watching over those who were part of my mess.

We all have imperfections.  I recommend everyone participate in Celebrate Recovery – you may also discover your hang-ups, bad habits, or Life’s hurts.  And when you do – God has a way of using your messiness to help others overcome their messiness.

God has a plan – It is perfect – and everyone is in it if they believe in Him!

How is your eyesight?

Recently, I was getting my annual car maintenance.  While in the Chrysler Dealer waiting area, they had the BBC Morning Talk Show for everyone’s amusement.  During the show, the announcer decided to respond to a question from one of his listeners.  The question was “It is possible to poke out your mind’s eye?”  The BBC Talk Show host responded, “No, you are stuck with that.”

When I began to think about both the question and response, I was somewhat moved since both are thought-provoking and important.  Thought-provoking in that it shows our human nature and how we sometimes wish to change the way we see things.  Important in that we cannot change ourselves – we need help.  We were born into a world with anger, strife, jealously, envy and maliciousness.  Therefore, if change is required it cannot come from anything on earth!

While I do not agree with the response provided by the BBC Talk Show host, I do understand why he responded the way he did.  However, let’s look at several examples that we can all relate to:

Case-in-point #1:  Have you ever had a good idea and decided to tell someone about it?  Maybe it was your best friend, a colleague or even your spouse?  As you were explaining your idea, did they make a facial expression that drained all of your positive energy?  Did you ask yourself, “Why did I tell them?” I had a good idea!

Case-in-point #2:  Do you know someone that always seems to be negative?  No matter what it is, they see the flaws or where improvements are needed.  When I was growing the sunflower plants, I had a friend with whom I shared one of the most beautiful pictures.  Her first comment was not about the beauty of the sunflower but about the leaf that was damaged.

So why did your friend, colleague, or even your spouse drain your spirit?  Why did a friend see the negative side of the sunflower plant and not the beauty within?  Why did one of the BBC Talk Show audience members’ want to poke out “his own eye?”  The answer is very simple. “Where you spiritually stand depends on where you spiritually sit.”

We only see things from where we are spiritually.  We are not trying to be mean or disrespectful – we are just human!  The Bible tells us in Matthew 12.34, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (NLT)  Without the Grace and Love of God, we cannot say or see anything otherwise.  In reality, we live in darkness without His Divine help.

Even the Lord recognized the importance of vision!  Jeremiah 1.8 says, “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.” (KJV)    Jeremiah 1.17 says “Thou therefore gird up they loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.” (KJV)   Both of these scriptures show that everyone has a tendency to judge others by their facial expressions, the clothes they wear, and the way they dress.  It is our carnal nature.  Without help we cannot change.

Final Thought:

So, how can I change this perception?  Luke 11.34-35 says, “Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.  Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.” (NLT)  This means we must depend on Jesus Christ to help us walk, talk, and see.  We must have His Light within us so that we do not yield to our sinful side.  Only He can help us focus on the positive things.  So, how can I change my vision?

Step 1: Prayer and Study.  Only through daily prayer and studying His Word will you have compassion, empathy, hope and understanding.  With Christ’s guidance, your vision will be refocused on yourself and not others.  You will realize that everyone is like you (i.e., a sinner) and there are no degrees of differences in sin.

Step 2: Change how you see things.   With a sincere heart, ask God to remind you “not to look upon their faces.”  No matter who it is (e.g., the drug addict, the homeless person, the person setting next to your desk at work, fellow church saints, etc.), only look at their heart!  God does – He came to help the sinners – why can’t you?

Step 3: Change your approach to life.  Start enjoying life and appreciating what God’s Grace provides you.  Stop being insecure about your spiritual performance.  Let God lead you to holiness.  Holiness is internally motivated and powered by His Love.  Live every day for Him; not about seeing the faults and mistakes of others.

Only God can change your mind’s eye to the correct perspective.  I pray that HIS grace, love and kindness give you an increased understanding of His Will in your life.

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The Mustard Seed

In reflecting on my childhood, I vividly recall the appreciation my dad had for his backyard garden.  The hot and humid East Texas weather and the fertile soil made for a perfect garden.  There was nothing more enjoyable than walking amongst the garden and tasting the tomatoes off-the-vine.  It is this memory which inspired me to have my own vegetable patch.

Several years ago, I had my own poly tunnel.  I grew a variety of vegetables.  These included vegetables like aubergine (i.e., eggplants), beetroots, tomatoes, courgettes (i.e., zucchini), spring onions, coriander, dill, rosemary, thyme, etc.  But one that I had never grown, until recently, was the mustard seed.  So why, did I find an interest in the mustard seed?

Matthew 13.31 says “He [Jesus] told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in it branches.” (NIV)  After reading this scripture, I was wondering what made the mustard seed the “largest of garden plants?”  Did it have strong stems like the rosemary?  Did it produce fruit like the tomato plant?  Why would Jesus specifically identify a mustard seed?

So, I went online and ordered a package of mustard seeds.  Once I received them, I planted several small seeds.  In a very short time, 2-3 days, the seedlings were sprouting.  I was surprised.  I do not recall any of my other vegetables sprouting in less than 3-4 weeks.  So this looked promising.  I decided to let them grow for a while before moving them to a larger planter.

As I watched them grow, there was nothing spectacular.  They did not create strong stems like the rosemary.  They did not have colorful leaves like a beetroot.  They were not strong or have characteristics similar to the fennel.  Neither did they have an aroma or the strength of the thyme.  They were not overly beautiful or attractive.  They were delicate and tender.  They looked like any other vegetable plant.

However, when I moved them to a larger planter, I understood the meaning!  The mustard seed was not like any other vegetable I had previously planted.  Normally the vegetables, when taking root, have a tendency to grow “down and out.”  They grow downward to hold them into the soil and outward so they are not easily blown over by wind or washed away by rain.  But not the mustard plant!  The mustard plant initially only grew downward.  It was not worried about being blown over by wind or washed away by rain.  It was focused on the most important aspect of life – being rooted and grounded!

The same applies to our spiritual life. If we are not “rooted and grounded” in The Word, we lack faith, conviction or trust.  We do not have confidence in what we believe.  We are afraid to reach out and ask God for help.  We are afraid to depend upon Christ during the times when we need him the most.  We are afraid to pray and seek His face.  Instead, we develop fear, stress, and anxiety.  We become unable to sleep because of worry.  We also effect everyone around us.

As Matthew 17.20 says, “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (NLT)  The mustard seed starts developing into a tree only after it is deeply rooted. The same applies to a child of Christ. You have to be rooted and planted in His Word before you have wisdom and understanding, which leads to spiritual growth.

Psalms 92.12-14 says “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” (NIV)

James 1.2-4 says “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (NIV)

James 1.12 says “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (NIV)

Final Thoughts:

I do not know if my mustard plants will develop into a tree.  But, there is one thing I do know.  If you read His Word daily, pray and fast, Jesus will help you overcome obstacles.  You will see life through “spiritual lenses.” He is ready to take care of you – You are his first priority!   His top goal and main concern is loving you, knowing you, and protecting you!

When troubles come your way, you will have endurance.  You will grow stronger.  You will develop patience and overcome temptation.  You will not be perfect – but you will be permanently rooted and grounded in Him!

May He bless you abundantly!

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(In case you are wondering, I used a yellow mustard seed.  I discovered that many theologians believe Jesus was referring to the black mustard seed.  I am not a theologian and definitely not an expert in mustard seeds.  I know there are several types (i.e., yellow, black, brown and white).  But, I would think their growing characteristics would be the same.  Maybe one would produce the “tree” and the others would not – I don’t know.)

What is your New Year Resolution?

I know that everyone is busy preparing their Christmas Meal, ensuring they have all the gifts they need, and joyously spending time with their family.  As soon as Christmas is over; however, the focus will change to the New Year.  Anxiety will come into the picture.  Fear will play on the mind. Why?  Everyone hopes the next year to be better than the last.  But most of all, everyone wants peace – internal peace and hope!

As we get closer to 2016, most of us will start thinking about our New Year Resolutions. These resolutions will range from A – Z.  Some want to lose weight. Some are personal or financial. Some are for self-improvement. And then some are a “bucket full” of items or extreme makeovers. But, did you know that according to one study, less than 8% actually achieve their New Year’s resolution.  So how can you change the odds to be in your favor?

Make a New Year’s Resolution that will affect the rest of your life – not just 2016!  Make a resolution that is addictive, rewarding and cost nothing!  Make a resolution that will lessen your fears, stress and anxieties.  Make a resolution that will cause you to focus on yourself and not the faults of others.  And last, but not least, make a resolution that will help you make “self-improvements” without spending any money.

First, set your alarm clock so that you get up 30 minutes earlier.  No, I am not asking you to lose sleep – I am asking you to make an investment that will pay greater dividends than any bank. It will improve your spiritual and natural life!  You will start each day with gladness in your heart. Your focus will be on self-improvement with God’s help.  He is ready to help you and all it cost is your commitment to follow Him.

Second, start reading the greatest love story that has ever been written: The Bible.  After reading, then meditate on God’s Goodness toward you. If you cannot think of anything, here are few ideas. Can you walk on your own?  Do you have a place to sleep at night?  Do you have friends that are kind and caring?  Do you have a job?  See, the list can be endless. You just need to start looking at life without the shades.

Why the Bible?  Where else can you find a book with, at least, 32 writers covering 3600 years of history without one contradiction?  It is not just 66 books, but an entire library of God’s love for us!  The Old Testament contains God’s agreement with man about salvation before He came in the flesh as Jesus Christ.  The New Testament contains God’s agreement with man about salvation after Christ came.

It contains the history of the Jewish people. It has books of poetry and prophetic writings. It details the life of Christ (i.e., The Gospels) – and a “what happened next” book on the actions of the apostles after Christ ascended (i.e., The Book of Acts).  It contains “love letters” of direction and guidance written to the Churches.  And it ends with a book on His Return.

Whatever your need, the answer is found in this magnificent library of God’s Love for You!  [A few examples include:]

  • Do you need help in your everyday life?  Matthew 4.4
  • Do you need more faith?  Romans 10.17
  • Do you need hope?  Romans 5.3-5
  • Do you need help making decisions?  Psalms 119.11
  • Do you need wisdom and understanding?  Psalms 119.98-99
  • Do you know if you have sinned?  Romans 5.12
  • Do you need help praying?  Luke 11.2-4
  • Do you know how much God loves you?  John 3.16
  • Do you know God’s Plan?  Acts 2.16-21
  • Are you ready for God’s Return?  2 Peter 3.10; Joel 2.28-32

 Keep this New Year Resolution – and you will not be losing sleep.

May you be blessed in 2016!

 

What type milk do you drink?

I grew-up in a medium-size East Texas town called Marshall.  As a child, I especially enjoyed going to church when we had church dinners. The dinners were held several times a year so that everyone could share and have fellowship. But what I remember the most is the Chocolate Ice Cream.

My best friend’s dad worked at Borden’s Milk Company.  Every time we had church dinners, as far as I can remember, his dad brought Borden’s Ice Cream.  It was the most delicious, rich, smooth, and enjoyable ice cream you could imagine!  So what made Borden’s ice cream so delicious?

Borden’s ice cream was made with whole milk.  Whole milk is as close as it comes to being from the cow.  It contains all the ingredients necessary for strong bones and a healthy lifestyle.  It gives you energy and nutrition. It is also used for making yogurts because of its richness.  But, did Borden’s have to use whole milk?

Borden’s had plenty of options. There is whole, reduced fat, low fat, fat free, organic, lactose free, and synthetic milk.  Yes; synthetic milk!  How can anything synthetic be good for you?  Since I am no expert on dairy products, I do not think it wise to debate their benefits or shortfalls.  However, I would like to share with you the importance of milk in our spiritual lives.

There are numerous scriptures in the Bible that mention milk.  In Hebrews 5.13-15, it says “By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one – baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, which have some practice in telling right from wrong.” (MSG)  Here we see new believers need milk when starting their spiritual life.  It is this spiritual milk that helps them grow, develop their bones (i.e., spiritual strength), and receive the nourishment and energy needed for solid foods (i.e., His teachings).  This means that without God’s whole milk, you cannot gain a mature understanding of His Word.

In 1 Peter 2.2, it says “Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.” (MSG)  How can you find “God’s kindness, grow up maturely, and have an understanding of His grace,” if you are drinking reduced fat, low fat, fat free, organic, lactose free, or synthetic milk?   You only get richness directly from the Source.  God’s Spirit is “not reduced, synthetic, or watered-down;” it is a mighty sword, a tower of strength in times of despair, and our modern-day City of Refuge.

Today, when we want to do things that are not aligned with our original teachings, we ask others for their opinion.  We look around to see if everyone else is doing it.  We send out social media messages to find out what others think. We check with our friends to see if it sounds like a good idea.  We even call the “boardroom together” and ask their opinions. If everyone else is dong it – it can’t be that bad, can it?

Why not ask God?  God wants believers who do things “according to His Will and Purpose,” not because everyone is doing it.  He wants someone who plays an active part in His Church.  He wants someone who will be a “lighthouse” to those living on the “shores of sin.” He wants someone who is willing to witness for His Glory.  And, He wants someone to carry “His Ark” on their shoulders.  He does not ask us to do more than we are capable. Only that you love Him as much as He loves you!  He died for you, right?

Take a look at yourself.  How does your spiritual life look in comparison to 5, 10, or 15 years ago?  If you are doing things because everyone else is doing it, I know a God that loves you and can help you change.  If you are afraid to speak-out, ask Him for help in prayer. If you need strength, it is freely available through His WordHe can help you overcome any problem, addiction or hang-up.  But, you have to ask in prayer and fasting.

Final Thoughts:

It does not matter what type of milk you are presently drinking – He still loves you!  If you have weak spiritual “bones;” seek His help in earnest.  If your spiritual life is not immersed in “wholesome milk from the Source,” – try feasting (i.e., fasting) at His Dinner Table!  He is standing beside you and ready to redirect your path.  He has already walked where you are going – He knows what is “around the corner.”

Whatever your situation, you are not aloneEveryone has been there. We are all still fighting every day.  All you have to do is “change the type of milk you drink!” Let Him help you carry the “the ark on your shoulder!”  You did not get where you are overnight . . but He has never left you. If you ask for help, you will receive the energy to stand-up, jump, shout, and dance.

 “God has a plan – it’s brilliant – and you are in it!”