The Guide of Your Faith

Scripture: Proverbs 16:

 1 To man belong the plans of the heart,
       but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.

 2 All a man’s ways seem innocent to him,
       but motives are weighed by the LORD.

 3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
       and your plans will succeed.

Observation: If we live always with God in mind, we will make the right choices and God will aid us in our success.

Application:  All of the bad decisions that I’ve made in my life rest completely on my own shoulders.  I can not blame anyone but myself for the wrong turns I’ve taken, the responsibility of my actions belongs to me alone.  All of the good decisions that I’ve made in my life I can not take credit for because they were made in prayerful consideration, with advice and guidance from God’s Word, His Spirit, and His people.  When we take time to listen for God’s guidance we are able to make the right choices, when we go off on our own through our own wisdom, we can get ourselves in some very sticky situations.

All of the bad decisions I have ever made seemed to me at the time to be good wise and prudent, but often my will and motives didn’t line up with God.  Had I taken the extra time I needed to seek His wisdom I’m sure I would have avoided a lot of pain. 

It is so great to serve a God who will work with me through these bad decisions and choices that I’ve made and make them work out in the end.  But I am convinced that the more we commit ourselves to God, to seeking knowledge from His word, and guidance from His spirit, the smoother our lives will be.  It doesn’t mean we will avoid every obstacle, because many things we face I believe are there for our own growth, but it does mean that we can avoid unwise mistakes that cause us undue suffering.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Counselor and Guide,

Help me to seek your wisdom in the important decisions that I make in my life.  Let me not set my hand to any great undertaking without first asking for your aid and assistance.  Keep me on the paths that you desire for me and help me to serve you in all that I do.

Love Michael

Yield: I surrender the burden of making difficult choices on my own.  I have a great and glorious Guide who has promised to help me in all my times of need.

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When Walking Away Doesn’t Work

 Scripture: Proverbs 15:

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
       but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Observation:  Kindness, love and understanding are powerful defenses against conflict.

Application:  A few days ago we talked about avoiding arguments, and today’s journal is similar, but I think there is more wisdom here for us to consider.  Sometimes just walking away doesn’t make things better, right?  Sometimes a silent refusal to engage in an argument brings on even more anger from the other person.  So what can we do?  We’re trying to avoid conflict by getting away from the person, or refusing to fight, but the fight keeps coming after us. 

I think that this has to do a lot with body language and facial expressions.  Sometimes we don’t realize just how much we are communicating without words in every day life.  And I think that often the thoughts we may be having which we consider private, are displayed for the world unbeknownst to us in our demeanor and body language.

It comes down to this.  Silence or denial may not solve a problem, but gentleness and kindness that are sincere can take the intensity of a problem down several notches in a hurry. 

I believe that most of us really would rather get along with each other than to fuss and fight anyway.  We just want to be understood, appreciated, recognized and respected.  If we don’t feel we are getting what we need of those things, we tend to get loud and aggressive, and say things that we later may regret.  The next time you find yourself at the doorstep of, or even already in an argument take a few deep breaths, think of some kind gentle words, and rather than barking back, try the higher path and show some kindness and understanding. 

Prayer: Gracious Father,

I thank you for your grace.  Please help me to grow in gentleness and understanding when it comes to dealing with the conflicts I have in my life.  Help me to turn away the wrath of others with a spirit infused with Your love and wisdom.  Forgive me when I fall short, and relate to people in a harsh way, and put my feet back on Your paths of peace and righteousness.

Love Michael

Yield:  I surrender my desires to match an angry persons tones or body language, and adopt a more kind, gentle persona with the help of The Almighty.

Who Sends You?

Scripture: Romans 10:

13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Observation: We are all being sent to someone to declare the good news of Christ Jesus.

Application: Paul isn’t talking about one certain group within the Christian community that we call today “Preachers.”  I believe he is saying that we are ALL called to bring the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it or understood.  Jesus gave those who stood by him before he ascended to The Father a great commission to carry the Gospel to the whole world, teaching, preaching, and baptizing.  This was not for a set aside group like the Levites of the Hebrews, but rather this was for all his disciples.

You may not be sent to pastor a congregation, or to preach sermons behind a pulpit.  You may not be called to the missionary field in a far away land, or to be a leader in a local church.  Those are indeed specific types of callings, and specific types of ministry, but they are not the ONLY ways that the Gospel is spread and understood.  By large numbers and statistics we know that most people are led to God by a friend and a personal conversation or invitation to come hear the Gospel.  We are all called to ministry, we are all called to share a story, and it is the greatest story ever told isn’t it?  It should be something that we are excited about and that we want to share.

You and I are called to share the story of Immanuel, “God with us,” to someone and God will present you with the opportunity.  Don’t sit back and think that it’s not your job to share your faith with that person who has none.  Don’t think that somewhere down the road God is going to send a preacher or evangelist who will speak to them and tell them what they need to know.  YOU ARE SENT!  You are called, and you are anointed with His Spirit.  Speak in faith and see what God can do. 

You may feel you don’t have all the answers, but you are not alone, no one has all the answers but God Himself.  And if God is with you, and He has sent you (and HE HAS) then who or what could ever be against you?

Prayer: Father who sent us,

Let us all ever be diligently obedient to our duty in presenting your love to a lost world.  Help us to spread the good news of the Gospel of your Son Jesus Christ to those whose hearts you have prepared and whose paths you have connected with ours.  Help us to be bold and ever obedient to the still small voice within that urges us to reach out, not only with words, but with loving deeds of kindness.

Love Michael

Yield: I give up thinking that its someone else’s job to tell your story.

Don’t Fuss With The Pharisees

Scripture: Proverbs 9:

7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
       whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.

8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
       rebuke the wise and they will love you.

9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
       teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

Observation: When you argue with someone, there is no real prize to be won, and there is much to be lost.

Application:  There are so many different doctrines within the spiritual community, and there is always something to disagree on when it comes to our religious beliefs.  How should one be baptized?  When should one be baptized?  Who should be allowed to be leaders in the Church?  What should our government do about this or that? How will Christ return?  Will Christians endure the great tribulation?  Are we in the last days? On and On, there is no end to the areas of contention among believers.  I can’t tell you the number of times I myself have fallen into arguments about these and many other topics like these.

What we have to realize is that when we allow ourselves to be pulled into an argument, or when we instigate an argument, we are not being wise.  We are inviting insult and abuse, in the worst cases we may even be bringing hatred upon ourselves.  This is not to say that we can’t disagree with one another, and discuss those disagreements  It is obvious that we are all different, and I believe that God intentionally made us that way and that He loves and operates among those differences.  But when we see that our friendly discussion is turning into an argument, it’s better to leave it alone and walk away friends, than to carry it out to the conclusion and leave with bitterness in our hearts.

Dale Carnegie says “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.” Solomon teaches in our scripture that although the wise may accept teaching and instruction, most will retaliate with defensive insults and angry words. 

I remember one of my greatest mentors and teachers Rev. Gary Lee once preached a sermon, and this was during my time of study and reflection before I was licensed as a pastor, after his sermon I approached him and said, “Brother Gary, I liked your sermon, but I disagree with you about something.”  Brother Gary had two Churches, and I know that he was in a hurry to get to the next service, his answer was short, but kind, and to me its been a wisdom I’ve carried along with me ever since.  He answered and said, “That’s Ok, we don’t have to agree on everything.”  And he turned around and walked out the door. 

At first I felt a little bit insulted because I had been denied my debate, but then I started realizing the wisdom behind what he had said to me.  If we have to agree on everything, how will we ever be able to get along enough to follow the command of Christ to love one another?  We have to understand that we are each being taught and guided by the same Holy Spirit of God who Jesus promised would be our Comforter and Teacher.  If He chooses to reveal Himself to me in a different way than He does to You, who am I to say that your experience and understanding are less than my own?

We may not always agree with each other, and that’s ok – all we really have to do is love one another, and if we ask for wisdom and accept His instruction and teaching, God will guide us in our understanding.

Prayer: Teacher and Comforter,

Help me to be open to your instruction, help me to see the wisdom within my brothers and sisters whom I may not be able to see eye to eye with on all things.  Help me to be ready to listen, and prayerful in consideration when it comes to my understanding about spiritual things.  Let me ever be ready to hear from you, and teach me father to love more deeply, and to forgive more quickly and teach me to reach out more frequently.

Love Michael

Yield:  I surrender my desire to be right all the time in the eyes of everyone around me.  I surrender my ego and pride in this.

Climbing Through The Thorns To Reach The Roses

Scripture: Romans 8:

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Observation:  We are not promised that we will not experience negative things, but we are promised that they will not be able to separate us from God’s love.

Application: We are all on a journey, it’s a spiritual trek through many difficulties and sorrows, we are climbing through the thorns of life and reaching for the roses of heaven.  Life is happening all around us, angels and demons battle before us, our current situations and the worries of the future press down upon us and through it all, God is with us and His love for us remains unchanged, unchallenged, and unbroken.

All of creation is under the eye of God, there is nothing that surprises Him, and where you are right now is exactly where God can show His great love for you.  Your situation may seem dire, your hopes may be faltering, your faith may be smaller than a mustard seed, but your God is not restrained.  In the weakest moments of our hearts, his mercy is increased all the more.  We may feel tired and worn by what we have endured, but the strength of God can sustain us.

I am so thankful that I can know without a doubt that no matter what has happened, or what may happen God will always love me.

Prayer: God of Love,

Thank you for infusing me with your love.  I ask that you help me to share that love with the world.  Help me to be able to reach out to those who are in need, that they may feel your presence in their lives, and understand the great love with which you love us all.

Love Michael

In Whom Do You Put Your Trust?

Scripture: Proverbs 3:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Observation: Sometimes I convince myself that what I want, is where God is leading me, but really I’m justifying my own desires rather than listening for God’s true guidance.

Application: As we are educated and taught to think in the secular world, we are trained to be logical thinkers, we are directed to reason things out in our minds and make a calculated decision based on the most likely results.  And this kind of thinking gets us by in the world doesn’t it?  It makes us viable members of society, logical and sensible in our decisions.  It makes us feel good when we’re able to make a good choice based on our own understanding.

But as God’s people, the logical choice according to our own understanding is often wrong.  We are to listen to God and trust in Him with our whole hearts.  This means going to God in prayer, and not just talking the whole time, but truly listening for God’s answer within.  How often do you pray without saying anything?  Try it sometime, if you’re seeking wisdom in anything, ask God for that wisdom, then shut up!  Listen, remain quiet, stay still, and try to hear what God is saying to you.

It’s easy to say, “I’m sure that God wants what’s best for me, so this logical choice that I’ve made is surely what God wants.”  But by doing that without prayerful consideration we are leaning on our own understanding, and putting God on the backside of our own plans, rather than following His lead.

The Holy Scripture is another way to receive that wisdom and guidance from The Father.  He will speak to you if you ask Him to through the scriptures.  Say a prayer, ask for guidance then open you Bible anywhere, and start reading, thumb through the pages, don’t follow any particular pattern, read and pray for understanding and God will give it to you through His Spirit and His Word.

If your Faith is truly in God – then seek God’s guidance and listen for the answer.  You may have to take a little more time with the answer, it may not happen in the amount of time it takes to microwave a burrito, but the wisdom of God is worth the extra time and the extra effort.

Prayer: Father of us All,

I ask that you grant me the patience and wisdom to seek your guidance above my own understanding.  Forgive me for taking my own plans, and calling them your will without truly hearing from you.  Keep my feet firmly planted in your word, and in relationship with you and guide me into the paths you would have me go.

Love Michael

Yield: I give up calling my desires and plans, God’s will.

Who’s The Master?

 Scripture: Romans 6:

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Observation: We are a slave to something, either sin or righteousness, we are a slave to someone, either the Devil, or God, the question is not whether or not we are slaves, “Who is your master?” that is the question.

Application:  We have talked before as we’ve looked into the teachings of Romans about how nothing we can do will purchase our salvation, its not about our good works, rather we know that its about God’s grace for us.  Here we find that we are no longer under the law, but under grace, but does that mean we are free to wallow in sin and live our lives in any manner we please?  That is the natural conclusion when you continue traveling down the road that the statement puts you on.  If we are no longer under the law, but under grace, then our actions have no consequences right?  No, Paul says “By no means!” 

Once we were slaves to sin, and we could not help but to be controlled by it.  But now because of God’s grace, we have been freed from the chains that sin had us wrapped up in.  We are no longer to be slaves of sin, but rather now we are slaves of righteousness, we are bound to do good rather than evil, we have traded our allegiance from the prince of the powers of this world (the Devil) to The Creator God of all the universe.  We answer now to a higher power, and should do all in our power to follow the path that He has set our feet upon. 

It doesn’t mean that sin doesn’t still show up in our lives, because it most certainly will.  But we should no longer embrace it, we should no longer surrender ourselves to it, because we are no longer slaves of sin.  Now we must be obedient to God and seek to do his will every day.  The Hold that sin had on us is broken, the punishment for our sins is paid, the foothold in our hearts that sin had established has been over run by The Spirit of The Most High God!  Hallelujah! 

Prayer: Abba Father,

Help me to remain steadfast in my obedience to you, help me to serve you as a slave to righteousness and when I see sin in my life, help me to know that I am no longer bound by it.  I am no longer a slave to it, because you have set me free!

Love Michael

Yield: I surrender the chains with which sin had me bound.