How would you measure a person’s Godliness? Would you consider their appearance? Would you measure it by their faithfulness to Church? Would you measure it by their time spent praying and reading their Bibles? Would you measure it by their evangelistic efforts? Those are all good measurements of what we are suppose to do and be as Christians, however; I believe God has a different measuring stick of godliness. Please understand that I am not undermining the above practices. I believe Christians that should live in a way that is pleasing to God. I just think this aspect of Christianity is overlooked and in many cases is viewed contrary to the way it is presented in Scripture.
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “…all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The first time I read this piece of scripture I said to myself: “Lord I am not suffering that much.” The answer I received back from the Holy Spirit was life changing. The response I received from God’s Spirit was “then that should tell exactly how godly you are actually living.” In other words, what if God measures our godliness by the extent of suffering and persecution we encounter and endure? Please know that this is just as difficult for me to write as it is for you to read. I also realize that living in a free country makes persecution look different than it would in a country where being a Christian is illegal. While living in America we may not be faced with imprisonment or physical harm, but when we live for the Lord on a public level we will face levels of rejection, criticism, and adversities.
We must understand that suffering and persecution are not elective courses but required realities of life. Those that have desire to follow Jesus Christ must accept the fact that we have to take up our cross and then follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23). Jesus promised and predicted that if the world hated him, it will also hate us. What does this means? It means that living a godly lifestyle comes with a cost. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are able willing to accept the cost. If not Jesus says we cannot be his disciples. (Luke 14:25-27)
‘Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. ‘ Isaiah 43:18-19
This is one of the more encouraging and challenging verses in my life at the this time. God has me in a season where I believe he has “new things” springing up all over the place. This piece of scripture has been working on me for a while. Matter of fact, it is a verse that is hanging on my wall right now.
We all like new things, however we do not always enjoy the process of getting there. God wants to make a way in our wilderness. God has promised rivers in the dessert. The Lord wants to do a new thing, but there are some principles we must embrace in order to see this promise come to fruition.
- Forget the Past: If we are not careful we can allow the past to paralyze us. It is not about just forgetting past mistakes, but we have to forget past miracles. If we want God to do a new thing then we must not expect God to do something in this season that he did in a previous season. Our expectations can cause a barriers on our faith.
- God is still God: God is not bound by our circumstances. God is not bound by anything other than His word, and he said within his word that he can exceed anything we can ask or imagine. Whatever; you can imagine God can exceed it. We need to always remember that God is not intending on meeting our expectations, but desires to exceed them.
- Focus on the Source and not the System: God’s promises are not dictated by a process. You see, he wants to make a way in a place there has never been a way created. He wants to bring resources from the most obscure of places.
The reason many of us cannot see God is because we are not looking in the right direction. If we want to see new things in a new season then we need to quit boxing God up based on what he has done in our past. He is God and operates outside our reasoning, logic and comprehension. Will you set out to believe that God will do new miracles in a new manner?
‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord , my strength, and my redeemer.’ Psalms 19:14
I was reminded during our chapel service about the value of having the right attitude. A young man from Africa by the name of Edouard Ndecky came and spoke to our young people about having a right attitude. The Holy Spirit used this young African sprinter to help me assess the importance of maintaining a good attitude.
In Psalm 19:14 the psalmist ask the Lord to allow the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart be acceptable and pleasing in the sight of the Lord. What effects the words of our mouth and the intentions of our hearts? Our attitude! The words of our mouth are direct reflection of our attitude. The way we respond to situations, circumstances, and people is a direct indication of our attitude. When we have a response that is critical, negative, or condescending it represents a bad attitude. Our attitude is a reflection of the condition of the heart. I guess you can say it like this “whatever is in the well will come out in the bucket.” It is easy to have a good attitude when things are good ( I have encountered a few people that just have the gift of negativity…no matter how good it gets they will always have a bad attitude), but it is very difficult to maintain a good attitude when things are bad. So, how do we maintain a positive, Lord pleasing attitude regardless of our circumstance?
I believe our attitude is centered on one basic principle: Our attitude is a choice. While we are unable to control our circumstance, we can control our attitude. Everyone of us have an attitude, and it is up to us whether we have good attitude or bad attitude. We have a tendency to allow our circumstances and other people dictate our attitude when our attitude should be effecting our outlook on life. Circumstances change with the wind, but our attitude can remain a constant. It is a matter of perspective. I want to also say that our attitude is a matter of our view of God. Is God good? Is God good all the time? Is God good no matter what the circumstances? If we truly believe the answer those questions is yes then our attitude will reflect it.
I would be lying if I said this was easy. Matter of fact, as I write this I am convicted because my attitude is not good. I guess that is why God is making me write this. I told a friend the other day that God is still showing me new levels of self that he wants to remove. I will end with this prayer: “Lord will you please help me to make the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight. Will my response to my wife, kids, family and friends be a reflection of a deep intimate relationship with you Lord? God, will you help me show people your goodness, and greatness through my attitude?” I love you Lord! Now I pray my attitude will reflect it!” AMEN
‘They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria. ‘ Hosea 9:3
Throughout the Book of Hosea we find that God’s people had turned against God and accepted some horrendous forms of idolatry into their person lives, their means of worship, and their public order. The indictment God has at this point is not against those in Egypt or Assyria but rather against God’s people. This text explains that sinful actions, rebellious attitudes, disobedient lifestyles leads God’s people back to a place where God had already granted them freedom. The decisions of rebellion had lead them back into a bondage that God never intended for them.
This sounds so familiar. I watch God’s people self destruct like this all the time. Through rebellion, sinful living, and disobedience to the instruction of God they find themselves experiencing the things God never intended them to experience. When God sets us free, we need to realize that he never intended for us to go back to the places that he had granted us freedom. It is a shameful experience to go back to Egypt. Please understand that none of us were ever intended to live in that kind lifestyle.
Once God’s people found themselves in Egypt their options became limited. The place they dwelled persuaded them to eat from the table of pagans. The text stated that they literally ate the “unclean things in Assyria”. What is my point? There are some things God’s people were never meant to consume. We as God’s people exist in a very wicked world. A world that is constantly trying to conform us into its model. The difficult and exhausting thing is that the culture of this world flows in the opposite direction of the plans, purposes, and principles of God. This makes living in this world very challenging. We all want to be accepted, however; God’s people are not to blend in with the world but they are to stand out from the world. You and I must understand that the idea of holiness literally means that God’s people are to be different. God does not want us to live a life of conforming, he wants us to live a life of transformation. Here is where God’s people had a problem while in Egypt. Since it was the only thing on the menu they just decided to eat the food in the pagan land.
I find it more and more difficult to do the right thing. The reason is because the options for righteousness is very limited. It is as though the world is removing all options to do what is right and thus forcing God’s people to choose all that is left on the menu. I see it when trying to shop for my daughters. The options are so limited when it comes to modesty and if not careful an exhausted parent will just say “oh well” and eat what’s on the menu. When skipping around on the radio. Are options for Godly music is limited so rather than turn the radio off we choose what’s left on the menu. When watching television and cannot find anything worth watching we just choose what’s on the menu. While on the job it seems you are the only one with Christian values, and it gets lonely serving alone…what do we do? We choose to eat the only thing on the menu. My point is that we do not have to choose what is on the menu…there is entire different menu. What am I saying? It is time for God’s people to quit eating at the table of the Assyrians. We have to determine that rather than eat what is on the world’s menu we must choose to close the menu and opt out of eating. We need the mindset that says: “I would rather starve than consume what the world is trying to force down my throat.”
This is why the church in America looks so much like the world. It has decided that since it is the only thing on the menu then it will just eat what is on the menu. It is time for God’s people to change menu’s. Open up their Bible’s and start walking and living in truth. That kind of mindset will get us out of Egypt and also fill us with things like joy, peace, grace and mercy. God has a menu and it is a lot healthier than what the pagan world is serving.
‘I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing. ‘ Hosea 8:12
Last week this verse popped out during our midweek Bible study. I must say that it has stayed with me. I have thought much about this one statement and it has me very burdened. While this is an indictment against the Children of Israel, I also believe it is very applicable to what we are experiencing in American Christianity.
God has given the great things of his law, but they have now become very strange. We have a tendency to view the laws of God has binding rules and regulations that keep us from enjoying life. The reality is that those love God will love God’s laws. The problem is not that we have a problem with God’s law, we actually have a problem with God. The great things of God’s law have now become strange because we have failed to love God the way he deserves to be loved. In what world do we think that God’s Word is to be looked at as something that does not apply to us. I am currently watching the next generation grow up before my eyes, and they look at the things I preach like a calf looking at a new gate. When God’s word is presented to them, or preached they make statements like: “that just stupid”, “oh well”, or “whatever”. There is a complete disregard to the laws of God because they seem so strange to them. Let me tell you…that is a reflection on the generation before them.
What is the answer? I would say Repent but at the same time the word itself is viewed as a strange thing. I will say that it is a scary thing when we are dealing with generations of people that are no longer familiar with God. I honestly do not know the answer. All I can say is that this indictment against us is real and we need awaken to the reality that we are slowly losing our heritage because of our attitude toward God’s Word, God’s Ways, and God’s Will. Remember, if we have a problem with God’s Word we are actually saying we have a problem with God.
Many people would think they do not need the church. A few weeks ago I wrote about why I need my church family. The reasons I need the church reinforces the fact that we must make church a priority. I heard a preacher say this: “if your salvation is not good enough to get you to church, then it is probably not good enough to get you to heaven.” Even though the words are strong, they are filled with truth. Church is not something that should be attended out of convenience but it is something that should be attended as a matter of priority. Here is why:
‘Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. ‘ Hebrews 10:23-25
- We need the Interaction: It is hard to influence without interaction. We interact with the world throughout our week, and we also need the same kind of interaction with other believers. My dad used to say that we end of smelling like the things we hang around. We need to interact with other believers because it stabilizes and strengthens us. ‘Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. ‘ Proverbs 27:17 I am sorry, but you and I cannot interact with a television screen, or phone screen. We must have the interaction.
- We need the Inspiration: Verse 24 says we are to provoke one another. When I am around God’s people I always walk away inspired. I am provoked to be better. Please understand that when we go to church we are inspiring someone. Let me say this…when we don’t go we are also inspiring someone…just not to be better. God’s people are suppose to bring out the best in us. I want to be pushed, provoked, and motivated to have more faith, live closer to Christ, and to love in ways never imagined. This does not happen without the Church.
- We need the Instruction: Many of us are trying to operate of small amounts of instruction each week. No wonder we are getting our eyes beat out by Satan. We need God’s word preached to us, taught to us, and read over us. Without instruction, we will fail. We cannot improve on an instruction from God. The greatest lessons I have ever learned was sitting in church under the preaching of God’s word. When you do not make church a priority you are neglecting an opportunity to receive instruction. Let me add that it may be a piece of instruction that will never be given again.
Before you go off on the tangent about the church being corrupt, let me warn you that you are talking about God’s bride. Before you start talking about the hypocrites within the church, let me go out on a limb and say there is a touch of hypocrisy in all of us. Before you get mad about how church operates, we must all realize that the church was God’s idea. He is died for it, he designed it, and he directs it; therefore, I am believe we need to make it a priority in our lives. Otherwise, we are just making excuses.
Moving into the latter part of this series we need a quick recap in order to understand what we are about to learn. First, we learn that our battle is not in a human form but rather a spiritual form. The battle of spiritual warfare is a battle that is fought within the mind. The key to victory is when we realize the heart and mind are directly connected. We have learned that when we change the way a person thinks, we can change the way a person lives. It is at this point we need to realize that there are basically two avenues that effect a person’s thinking: the ears and the eyes. This means that what a person hears, and what a person sees has a direct influence on their minds. Yes, I am saying that the music we listen to, the shows we watch on television, and the things we allow ourselves to see on the internet have a tremendous impact on whether or not we win in the arena of spiritual warfare. Let me give you some principles that will help you win the daily battle.
- Fill Our Ears with Godly Music. Many would say that I am stretching it too far. I am telling you, music has a tremendous impact on our mental state. Think about it…music what do we see professional athletes doing before the games? Listening to music. Why? Because it helps them mentally get ready for their game. It effects their preparation. Now, we have a battle going on everyday. Based on what we learned from our previous lessons that if we lose the wrestling match then it will have fatal results. David played music to remove the evil spirit form Saul, Paul and Silas used music to loose the chains of bondage within a prison cell, and one day God’s people will walk through the throne room of Heaven singing the song of the redeemed. Music has a tremendous impact on the state of your mind. We must fill our ears with things that bring victory and not defeat. Filling our ears with Godly music will have a huge influence on our thinking. Therefore, having a big impact on how we live. ‘And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. ‘ Mark 4:24
- Guard Our Eyes from Ungodly Images. ‘I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. ‘ Psalms 101:3 It is so difficult to maintain but it is absolutely vital that we learn to guard our eyes. Let me say this, I truly believe that pornography is stealing the minds of our current generation. It is not just a sin within our churches, but I believe it one of the most dominant sins within the church today. Another, avenue of Satan attack is through our newer horror films. I have recently seen movie trailers that were so demonic that it sent chills down my spine. If you do not think that Satan is using these movies to dull our spiritually senses, then you are very naive. Our children are being influenced more by what is on a television, or Youtube than their own parents. It takes boundaries, but we must guard our eyes. If we are not careful we will allow a stronghold attach to us that will take a miracle to remove.
I want to leave you with this final verse. It think it solidifies what we need in order to win the battles of spiritual warfare. ‘Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ‘ Philippians 4:8