Wanted Alive: Shrink Resistant Faith Never Dies

O For a Faith That Doesn’t Shrink “Wanted Alive” is Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, October 14, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 10.14.2018” on Spreaker.

This is devotional thought number 7 in our devotional series titled, “O For a Faith That Will Not Shrink.”

Psalm 88 (NLT)*

1 O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night.
2 Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry.
3 For my life is full of troubles, and death draws near.
4 I am as good as dead, like a strong man with no strength left.
5 They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten, cut off from your care.
6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.
7 Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me. Interlude
8 You have driven my friends away by making me repulsive to them. I am in a trap with no way of escape.
9 My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O Lord; I lift my hands to you for mercy.
10 Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise you? Interlude
11 Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
12 Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
13 O Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day.
14 O Lord, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face from me?
15 I have been sick and close to death since my youth. I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
16 Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have paralyzed me.
17 They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long. They have engulfed me completely.
18 You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend.

 

When You Have to Search The Word

Seldom do we quote entire chapters from the Bible, but this time it is appropriate. There are times in each of our lives that we are so depressed, lonely, and in despair, that only God can help us. Friends, as nice as they may be, cannot help us. Loved ones, as caring as they may be, cannot help us. Coworkers, as committed as they may be, cannot help us. When we get so far down in the dumps that death, darkness, and intermittent doubts become commonplace in our thoughts, we have to lay it all on the line and cry out to the One faithful, true, and living God (Blessed be His Name).

In verse 11, the psalmist poses a serious question. He asked if dead people can proclaim God’s faithfulness. He was telling God that the trials he was experiencing could very well lead to death, but he was of more value to God alive than dead. The dead cannot praise God.

I find this intriguing. It would seem to me that most desponding people would welcome death. Death, in those circumstances, would seem to be a welcomed rest. But the psalmist found death to be out of the question. Despite his weakness and repeated questionings, the psalmist continued to cry unto the Lord. He never gave up. David never stopped communicating with the Creator. He carried all of his fears, tears, doubts, and difficulties to God. That is the epitome of faith. Refusing to give up even in our darkest hour is what faith is all about.

Decision Point

If we are to develop a shrink-resistant faith that will not fail when tested, we must decide, that no matter how hard things get, we will not let go of our connection to our faithful God.




Amends Win Friends

Making amends is part of the sin recovery process. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, September 23, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 09.23.2018” on Spreaker.

Today’s Scripture Focus: Exodus 22:10-15

We are focusing on sin recovery principle number eight of 12: “We made a list of all persons we have harmed and are willing to make amends.”

‘Fess Up

I cannot tell a lie. It is extremely difficult to own up to our wrongs especially if we have harmed someone through irresponsibility. I will give an example that may or may not apply directly to you, but please see the principle here.

What if you borrowed a vehicle from a good friend? You were driving down the road to the supermarket and did not see that there was a concrete block that had apparently fallen from a truck that is long gone. You see it too late and hit it, destroying the tire and front bumper cover. What do you do when it is time to return the vehicle? How do you explain what happened? Do you simply return the vehicle, hand over the keys, say that you made a mistake and go about your business? Is there a better way of handling this? Today’s thought is not about forgiveness, so we will not seek to apply that principle yet.

Level with Me

It is human nature for us to shirk responsibility. Some men sire children and walk out on the mother (for whatever reasons). Some people spread rumors on social media about others, and when they realize whatever they wrote was not true, they don’t even bother to make amends with the injured party or create a new post to clarify the error. Some of us borrow money or property, and if repaying becomes inconvenient, we expect our friends or loved ones to eat the deficit like they are banks who can charge off the debt and write it off on their taxes. And all of this is not to mention those of us who have had issues with substance abuse or general habits with stealing.

The point here is that we know there is cause and effect in every aspect of life. There is also an expectation that we will own up to our wrongdoing and make restitution. If you have harmed someone, abused their property, or owe a debt, seek out those you’ve harmed and come up with a plan to make things right. Every situation is different. The exact manner in which to handle it is different, but the principle is the same. Do your level best in the Lord, and make things right. You will be so glad you did even if there are consequences. The Lord is with you.




The Key to Self-Appraisal

See yourself in the true light. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 09.19.2018” on Spreaker.

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 18:10-14

We are focusing on sin recovery principle number seven of 12. “We submit to God and ask Him to remove our deficiencies.”

Self-appraisal is impossible without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who brings conviction to the heart and shows us where we need to be renewed and transformed (John 16:13).

Tricky Heart

Whenever we attempt to see ourselves in our true light without His aid, we will invariably minimize our need. We will think of ourselves more highly than we should. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). “Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” (Isaiah 1:5-6). These verses give an accurate picture of our experience without the Lord.

A religious zealot stood up in the temple, the Bible says, and prayed with himself (should he no have been praying to his God instead?) that he was holy, unlike the publican who was nearby. The wording in the King James Version of the Bible is interesting. I am not making a doctrine out of the wording, but it is interesting. It says that the Pharisee prayed with himself and then the verse continues. When we have a false sense of our innate righteousness and then venture to pray, giving our spiritual resumes to God, it is as though we are praying to ourselves. We have made ourselves gods. The God of heaven neither hears nor answers proud prayers.

Humble Pray-er

The tax collector received the power of the Holy Spirit to see his exceeding sinfulness. “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:13-14). It is a blessing to know that the Lord is not impressed by our proud self-appraisals, but by our God-given humility. He is anxious to answer the prayers of those who humble themselves before Him.

May the Lord give us acute spiritual eyesight that we may see as He sees. May we be brought to humility, thereby bringing us into a close relationship with Him and having our spiritual deficiencies removed. “Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD. Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off” (Psalms 138:5-6)




Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone, and Other Hazards of Heredity

Sin Recovery Principles. Holy Spirit Makes Us More Aware. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, August 27, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 08.27.2018” on Spreaker.

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 9:34-38

We are focusing on sin recovery principle number four of 12: “We are submitting to an honest self-inventory as the Holy Spirit makes us more aware.”

Come to Grips Sooner Rather Than Later

I know from experience what it’s like to suffer internal struggles due to heredity. Every person who was born of a woman, whether you know her or not, has to face the reality of your ancestors. This reality is that they struggled with pride, rage, hatred, pessimism, over ambitiousness, promiscuity, alcoholism, drug abuse, greed, envy, doubt, etc. The sooner you admit that to yourself, and that this accounts for half of your struggles, the other half being habits you have cultivated yourself, is the sooner you will be in a position to experience victory.

If your dad was an angry man, acknowledge that his anger may have had a negative impact on you. Acknowledge your mother’s crack addiction, that it may have had some negative impact on you. If your grandmother was a woman of the night and could not see a handsome man go by without soliciting him, acknowledge that this may have had some negative impact on your life. If your grandfather abandoned his family, accept the fact that this had a negative impact on your life.

I say all this not to give you a way to make excuses for maladaptive or sinful behaviors. I say this so you can take an honest self-inventory and perhaps identify some of what makes you tick. Yes, there are great qualities we also inherit from our foreparents, but obviously, we do not need to overcome those.

Parental Effects

What do you do once you recognize the impact of your ancestors on your life? Do you wallow in it? Is someone else to blame for your poor choices? Do you throw up your hands in despair because you feel like you got the short end of the stick in this thing called life?

Let me share an idea with you. Ask God to show you what negative impact the decisions and habits of your foreparents still has on your lifestyle choices today. Ask Him to nullify the effects of heredity to that drives you to do evil. God will manifest His love in your life so much that you learn to make right choices as a matter of consistent habit so you can bring Him glory. Ask God to adopt you into His family and give you a fresh, godly bloodline through Christ. Ask God how to be of service to the next generation.




Linger to Hear What the Spirit Says

Sin Recovery Principles. Honesty with Ourselves. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, August 26, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 08.26.2018” on Spreaker.

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 9:1-3

We are focusing on sin recovery principle number four of 12: “We are submitting to an honest self-inventory as the Holy Spirit makes us more aware.”

Whenever the Lord honors us with the privilege of seeing ourselves as we are it is a blessing. As we have said multiple times recently, submission to God’s will is essential in these situations. Simply being able to identify and confess where we have strayed is not sufficient. Simply being sad when we have disappointed ourselves, and God is not enough. What we need is a change of heart and lifestyle, and only God can effect such lasting change in us.

Godly Sorrow a Gift

I find it more than a little interesting that in the eighth chapter of the book of Numbers, the people welcomed the reading and teaching of the Word in their lives. They not only welcomed it, but they were also saddened by how short they had fallen of God’s ideal. Their contriteness was an indicator of whose spirit was at work. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to experience godly sorrow for sin. And as the people displayed a contrite response to truth, God rewarded them with a message of hope and rejoicing.

Leaders encouraged the people to rejoice because they had heard and understood the Word of God. They were to celebrate because the joy of the Lord was their strength. God never leaves us in despair when we encounter the reality of our need to change. Their celebration was to culminate in a festival that certainly had immediate relevance, but more than that, directed the people’s minds to the fact that Jesus is presently preparing a place for each of His children, and one day He will return to receive us unto Himself so we can be together forever.

Patience While We Hear and Learn

If I had to cite one takeaway from today’s reading it would be related to how patient the people were, humbling themselves before the Word as they confessed their sins and sincerely worshiped God. They seemed to have no concept of the passing of time (they stood in God’s presence for quite some time). Lingering in God’s presence to learn more about what He expects from us and to receive power from Him is essential to recovering from sin addiction.

Try to incorporate time into your busy schedule; benefit a time of reflection, honest confession, and lingering in worship, looking forward to the day we will finally begin living in God’s presence forever.




Sin Recovery Principles: We Need Miraculous Intervention

Sin Recovery Principles. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, August 5, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 08.05.2018” on Spreaker.

Today’s Scripture Focus: Genesis 16

We are focusing on sin recovery principle number one of 12: “We admit that we are powerless against sin and thus we cannot manage our lives without God’s miraculous intervention.”

This story is chock-full of lessons, but I am going to do my best to target our sin recovery principle here.

Promise versus Self-Preservation

Abram and Sarai were in an apparently impossible situation. They could not have children, yet God promised that they would. This is why I said that they were in an “apparently” impossible situation. Remember with us, especially when it comes to salvation and victory over sin, all we face are impossibilities. But with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Not only did God promise the unfruitful, elderly couple that they would have a child, but that child would become the ancestor of Messiah, through whom all nations of the world would be blessed. Messiah would save His people from their sins—another miracle (Matthew 1:21).

Do you realize what happened here? When God told them that He was going to perform a miracle in their lives, which would bless so many others, their unbelief thrust them into self-preservation mode. So they enacted Sarai’s ridiculous plan to enhance God’s ability to keep His own promise.

Ridiculous Sin

Lest you think I am being hard on them, I am not willing to give them a pass simply because I can relate or might have made a similar blunder. We must be honest and call sin by its right name even if by doing so we indict our own behaviors. It was a ridiculous plan. Abram took the bait and followed Sarai’s plan much like Adam did when Eve offered him that infamous bite of fruit in Eden. Neither Adam nor Abram were driven by lust per se, but they both chose the sin route instead of awaiting God’s power to manifest His miracle.

Abram had sex with Hagar so they could produce a child who, in their minds, would become the miracle God promised. And we all continue to experience the fallout from that decision. Isaac and Ishmael’s descendants clash and contend even as you read this post. This is because Abram and Sarai chose to trust their own abilities rather than God’s Word. I will not go through the entire story. Please go back and read it again when you have an opportunity.

What drove Abram and Sarai’s powerlessness was their lack of trust in God to do exactly what He said He would. In other words, they did not believe His Word. Hello? Are you getting this?

Don’t Forfeit Your Fight

Whenever we choose to second-guess God’s Word, we forfeit our ability to do what He commands. We forfeit our victory over sin. The power to live holy lives is in God’s Word! He said that we must be holy as He is holy. That’s His Word. What if we second-guess it? He said that there is no temptation that He has neglected to empower us to resist. That is His Word. What if we second-guess it? He said that we could do all things through His Son who gives us strength. That is His word! What if we second-guess it? He said that the devil is cast down and defeated. That is God’s Word! What if we second-guess it? Do you see the kind of power we forfeit when we second-guess God’s Word?

So today we need to take an honest inventory of our lives and admit the times we have neglected to study, share, and have faith in God’s Word. We need to honestly admit that we are powerless to overcome our sin habits without God’s miraculous intervention. We need to forfeit our right to invent alternate sin recovery plans and submit to God’s instead. It is then and only then that we will receive the miracles God promised as He gives us new hearts and a right spirit. When we begin to trust Him fully, we are well on our way to a full recovery from our sinful condition.




When God Likes Your Singing

“Sing Unto the Lord a New Song: Meditations From the Book of Psalms” Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, July 29, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 07.29.2018” on Spreaker.

“Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings” (Psalms 33:2).

Joyful Noises

Singing unto the Lord is one of the greatest blessings we can enjoy. When we rehearse the great things He has done for us, our delight is to worship Him in song. We may not have the most beautiful sounding voices, or skillfully handle stringed instruments, but sincere worship is acceptable to God.

“O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” Psalms 22:2-5. When we pour out our hearts before the Lord, and praise Him with our entire beings, the Bible says that He who inhabits praise will deliver us.

Case Studies in Song

Many incredible things occurred for God’s people when they praised Him. I will give two examples of God’s power to deliver in the midst of His people’s worship.

(1) “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (Acts 16:25- 26).

(2) “And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth forever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten” (2 Chronicles 20:20-22).

They sang when the Spirit led them to, and the Lord showed favor on them. Let us learn how to praise Him as they did.

Melodies from Heaven

The Lord has shown us how willing He is to dispel darkness at the sound of sincere melodies of worship. He has also shown us how He will deliver us at the last day in the presence of spiritual music. This time it will be melodies uttered by God Himself. Can you imagine what a wonderful day it will be when the melodious voice of God is heard, and the dead in Christ rise? Imagine how beautiful the sound of His trumpet will be in that day of final deliverance (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

It is a great idea to enrich our worship expression with musical praise. The Lord enjoys expressions of praise and dwells with His people when we do so.

Sing unto the Lord a new song. Celebrate the gift of singing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs unto the Lord.




Tired of Getting Torn Up? Turn on the Light

“Sing Unto the Lord a New Song: Meditations From the Book of Psalms.” Light up your life to avoid life’s disasters. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, July 26, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 07.26.2018” on Spreaker.

“NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105).

Stubborn and in the Dark

The reason some you keep bumping into stuff in the night is because you refuse to switch on the light. You’ve been there before. You were in a rush to use the bathroom, or raid the fridge in the middle of the night. You did not switch on the light and then it happened. You bucked your toe on that steel fire truck your toddler left in the middle of the floor earlier that day. I don’t know if it would have hurt as badly if you expected it or not, but it certainly did when you didn’t realize it was there. Simple solution – switch on the lights!

Truth is, many of us can attest that we run our heads, knees, toes, and other spiritual body parts into immovable objects because we love darkness, and refuse to switch on the Scripture lights. We know that the Bible is there to enlighten our pathways, but somehow fear that it will expose our evil, and thus we inexplicably shun the light. And we have the scars to prove it.

When You’re Ready

Do you want to stop injuring yourself in your times of darkness? I do. Switch on the light. Ask God to teach you how to dwell in the light, even as He is in the light; and if your deeds are evil, repent. It’s just that simple. God is ready, willing, and available to shed some light on any situation, if you are willing to travel the path that the light reveals.

Sing unto the Lord a new song. Celebrate the light of God and His Word, which reveals the pathway to everlasting life.




Stressed and Stretched-How to Apply Bible Promises for Relief

“Sing Unto the Lord a New Song: Meditations From the Book of Psalms.” How to get peace if you are stressed to the limit. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, July 22, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 07.22.2018” on Spreaker.

“My soul melteth for heaviness: Strengthen thou me according unto thy word” (Psalm 119:28).

Unbearable Stress

Have you ever been under so much stress that you could barely move; like you were in the crucible and were melting under the intense heat? Have you cried so much that your bed was wet with tears, and you could not see your way out of your trials?

What did you do? Did you redouble your efforts to seek God’s face? What about praying more–did you try that? Did you trust that the same God who called something out of nothing and breathed life into every living being, could breathe into your situation and lift your burden?

When life gets unbearable, we should become more acquainted with God and all His ancient promises. In your spare time, do a Web search for Bible promises. Be sure to take note of the promises that address your particular needs. Trust God to keep His promises, just like He has done so many times before.

How David Handled Life Stress

In the second half of our theme text, we see two major principles at work: One, we see David asking God to strengthen him according to whatever His providence may indicate. Whatever word or answer to David’s distress God would give would be satisfying to David. Two, we see David claiming God’s promises. He asked for strength according to God’s word; His promise to supply power to meet all of life’s challenges.

God loves to be reminded (not that He forgets) of His promises. He loves when we claim them, by faith. He loves when we call upon His strength so we can bring honor to His name.

Sing and Celebrate the Promises

So, when you feel like you are melting under the heat of oppression, sinful addictions, and trials, call out to God and begin to claim His promises. He will give you strength. He will shoulder your burdens. Trust Him.

Sing unto the Lord a new song. Celebrate God’s willingness and availability to keep His word to those who walk uprightly.




God’s Gift–Really

“Sing Unto the Lord a New Song: Meditations From the Book of Psalms.” Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Friday, July 20, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 07.20.2018” on Spreaker.

 

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: And the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; So are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: They shall not be ashamed, But they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3–5).

Beautiful Babies

Banish the thought that children are a bother, inconvenience, or nuisance. Banish the thought that children are an afterthought, mistake, or interruption of our regularly scheduled programs. The Bible says that we are blessed when we have plenty, from our young age, and that they are a special gift from Him.

Do not miss the language of blessing in our theme text. Let me ask you a question: Are inheritances good or bad? Did you know that the Hebrew word for the word, “heritage” means to take possession of or inherit? This is wonderful! This means that God has given us children as an inheritance, which means they are blessings of inestimable value in the sight of God and we should respect them as such.

The Way to Handle Gracious Gifts

The text continues that we are blessed when we have a household full of them; especially if we can do so while we are young and energetic. Children who are loved, nurtured, valued, and respected will grow up to represent the family name well. When enemies attempt to cast aspersion against you or your family’s character, children, who are receptive to godly character building will defend your honor at all costs, while still maintaining a holy demeanor.

Since children are a gift from God, why not treat them as such?

Sing unto the Lord a new song. Celebrate God’s wisdom in giving us children to love and nurture.