Preach it…Teach it…Live it!

The power is not in preaching rather, the power is in living out the words you preach. This statement is not only applicable to preachers and teachers of the word of God but to everyone who hears the word of God. James 1:22 (NLT) says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” With that said, teachers of the gospel will be held to the letter of what they teach. James 3:1 (NIV) confirms, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

Practicing what you preach as pastors, teachers, parents, supervisors, trainers etc requires that you behave in the same way you encouraged others to behave in. According to Hebrews 4:12, “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The living Word is active in the lives of those who receive it and lives it. According to the psalmist, the person who meditates on and delights in the Word will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:2–3).

Now, I’ll be the first to openly admit that I am a ‘continued’ work in progress. God is still removing some scales, pruning some flesh, and reshaping my mind. Paul said it best in Philippians 3:13-16, “Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you. Nevertheless, to the extent that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule. Let us be of the same mind.”

Jesus, who is the greatest Preacher/Teacher that ever walked the face of this earth summed up a life lived for God when a teacher of the law asked Him the most important of commandments. Jesus replied, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

Brothers and Sisters, those who truly desire to live for God must seek Him in His Word. We must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to apply the Word to our lives. Living for God means giving up ourselves and desiring God’s will above all else. As we draw nearer to God and come to know Him more, His desires will more naturally become ours. As we mature, our desire to obey God’s commands increases as our love for Him and our fellow man increases. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

As it stands, the best sermon ever preached 🗣is the one that is lived out through your feet 👣 because if we live by the Spirit, we will also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24–25)!

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Faith In The Unseen!

How do we make sense of things unseen? That’s a difficult question for some people to answer. Ultimately, we choose what we want to believe or not believe. In Hebrews 11:1 we find the non-exhaustive definition of faith; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”

With that said, it’s easy for us to believe that that light travels 186,000 miles per second, even though we’ve personally never measured it. It’s easy for us to believe there are 100 trillion stars in the sky without question. It’s easy for us to believe that an atom has neutrons and electrons spinning around a nucleus, even though we have never seen any of them. It’s easy for us to believe that E does, in fact, equal MC².

Undoubtedly, we pride ourselves on being sophisticated and logical creatures and if we can’t justify the unseen than we immediately reject its authenticity without flinching or batting an eye!

Equally said, when people can’t make logical sense of the Bible they choose to reject its authenticity or stoically question its reliability.

In short, there is solid proof that thousands of people witnessed the miracles of Jesus. There are testimonies from dozens who witnessed His death, only to see Him alive after His resurrection. There have been many historical archeological discoveries and yet people choose to question the Bible inerrancy and infallibility. Tell me, where is the logic in that? Logic goes out the window when people talk about Jesus.

If I am speaking to you and you are struggling with making sense of the ‘unseen’, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:18-21).

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Is the Tomb Empty?

I was at Kroger’s picking up a few things and out of nowhere, I heard someone say something to me. Now, with facial coverings and social distancing you rarely hear people chatting to each other unless that absolutely have to do so. Then, I heard the voice again and a man quickly approached and sharply asked me, “Do you really??” It took me about 3 seconds to realize that he was referring to one of the many old NHC Caregroup shirts I regularly wear.

If you’re wandering, the question printed on the t-shirt states, “ASK ME… I CARE! As I mentioned, I wear these t-shirts quite regularly and in over 9 years no one has ever asked me that question.

Intuitively, I responded, “Yes, I do!” To that he immediately replied, “About what?” Realizing that now I’m on the hook to continue engaging him, I said, “To love Jesus Christ and to share His love with others!!” The gentleman smiled, pulled out a cross emblem from his t-shirt, and pleasantly said, “Exactly, that’s what’s it’s all about—especially during these times!”

At this point, the lane we were obstructing started to get a little congested by fellow shoppers who weren’t the least bit interested in our 20 second bantering session. So in parting, I asked him for his name and he said, “Martin” and I told him my name and then I parted ways with saying, “God bless you.”

Which brings us to the foundation of this devotional. What if the only Jesus someone sees is through you? As followers of Christ, we bear the responsibility to demonstrate to the world what Jesus would look like if He was walking the earth today.

We live amongst people that will never enter the door of a church or read the Bible or hear a sermon. But these people have the opportunity to know Jesus by watching us! I know Martin was wearing a cross emblem, but what I don’t who is where he was in his faith journey. Perhaps, he need confirmation that grace still exist despite the hate we see climbing rapidly in our world.

In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The light Jesus is referring to is that positive change within you; that contentment; that inner peacefulness (even when chaos is all around you) that you just can’t contain with subtlety or oblivion.

Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we are called to be light to a world struggling against physical and spiritual forces like never before. As we currently deal with issues involving our health, identities, finances, and governments, our presence as light for God is so important.

To be honest, for a moment, I thought Martin was being rude and my first thought was to say, “What’s it to you”, but that’s not what The Holy Spirit (Light) led me to do!

In hindsight, I don’t know the impact that 20 second encounter meant for Martin, but it meant enough for me to write about it. Fact is; when we embody the light of Christ and are willing to share that light with others as Jesus did, serving them with peaceful hearts and directing them toward God’s provision, grace, and mercy it opens up opportunities that births faith, hope, and love in the hearts of God’s people and it glorifies God in heaven.

Quiet as it’s kept, God is probably asked this question more times than many and I would be willingly to bet the farm that if someone ask Him ‘does He care’, He would respond with one question; “Is the tomb empty?!”

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God’s Rest!

We are all tried and worn out!! In fact some days it feels like we are burning our candles at both-ends. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t it appear that months turned into weeks, weeks turned into days, and days feel like minutes?! Just think about it, Monday was Labor Day and in one blink BOOM; today is Friday. The earth is definitely spinning faster than ever before.

Let’s be honest, we are still having to do ‘work-arounds’ with this lingering pandemic, an economic crisis, remote learning, a looming election, police reform, and social injustices. Not to mention the everyday debacles that we all individually face and deal with everyday! With that said, it’s not uncommon for our bodies to want to shut down because we pushing 100 MPH everyday!

So to combat all of the stress, anxiety and tiredness we need rest! If globally we can’t solve world hunger, why in the world are we so stressed out trying to solve things we absolutely can’t control?!

Quite as it’s kept rest is one of the greatest gifts God gave to mankind. Rest is synonymous to peace. Naturally, we associate rest with sleep. When we are so tired, we think of sleeping and resting. After that, we are refreshed and energized to move out again. We feel good and happy. This is not God’s rest, but rather man’s rest!

Let’s be clear, God ‘s rest is deep and profound. It supersedes the rest derived when we are physically tired or sleepy or worn out from every day life; when we have worked so hard that we can hardly stand!

The Greek word for rest is ‘anapausis’ meaning cessation from labor and refreshment. Christ’s rest is not a rest from works, but in works; not the rest of activity, but of the harmonious working of all the faculties and affections, of will, heart, imagination, conscience- because each is found in God the ideal sphere of its satisfaction and development.

(Vines concise dictionary).

Jesus extended us an olive branch in Matthew 11:28 and He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Additionally, in Hebrew 4:1-3 believers are strongly encouraged to enter God’s rest!

God’s rest is found in our love in obeying His word! It’s putting faith in truly embracing and understanding God’s rest so that we are able to pass it along to others; practicing compassion like Jesus and helping the weary. It is the way of prayer-coming to the throne of grace—seeking God’s face whether on our knees or bellies!!

Beloved, when we possess God’s rest it eases the pain/burdens we bear because it refreshes and relaxes our minds, spirits, and physical bodies. We are able to lay down in peace in lieu of being torn by inner and outer struggles. We are able to operate our lives in peace and achieve our visions and goals. God’s rest settles our fears and drowns out any all distractions. Yes, It’s our duty and responsibility to work but even more important than that, it’s our duty and responsibility to seek out God’s rest in our lives—-everyday!!

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Self-Reflection – noitcelfeR-fleS

What is self-reflection (examination)? According to the New Oxford American Dictionary self-reflection means to meditate or seriously think about one’s character, actions, or motives.

Self-reflection (examination) is an important part of living as an authentic Christian, but by nature and unfortunately, we prefer self-deception or better noted, self-deflection. Deflecting is easy, convenient, and comfortable. We want to believe ourselves better, smarter, and more ethical than we really are, so careful, Spirit-directed self-reflection (examination) keeps us honest with ourselves and with God.

Self-reflection (examination) is a critical tool used to combat the spiritual deception rampant in the world. The Bible tells us to confess our sin to God, which requires a certain amount of self-reflection. If we can never find any sin to confess, then “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

In 1 Corinthians 11:28, Paul gives the church specific instructions in taking communion aka the Lord’s supper. He said, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for the disrespectful way they were participating in the Lord’s Supper. Some were hogging the food, and some were getting drunk on the wine (2 Corinthians 11:20–22). They were told to examine themselves or they would face judgment; some had even died as a result of their lack of self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:30–32).

Self-reflection (examination) requires balance and too much inward reflection is unhealthy because it can shift our focus off Jesus and make self-improvement our God. A.W. Tozer, in his classic work The Pursuit of God, says, “The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very thing he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him.” Self-reflection (examination) should always point us to the foot of the Cross because ultimately we must humbly admit our inability to change ourselves and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within to transform us into the image of Christ. Self-reflection illuminates the light of Truth working in and through your life.

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Know My Heart!

“Investigate my life, O’God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— the guide me on the road to eternal life” (Psalm 139:23-24). I love the word choice used in this Message paraphrase. Investigate, cross-exam, and test are words you would hear in an official courtroom setting.

It’s obvious that David is throwing himself at the mercy of God’s Supreme Courtroom in a prayer of petition. In the paraphrase above, David pours out his heart to God. David wanted the Lord to search him, know his heart, try him and know his thoughts. David’s prayer clearly embodies the true meaning of active humility. 1 Samuel 13:14 tells us that David was “a man after his [God’s]own heart”. This simply means that David longed and pursued justice and mercy for himself and for God’s people. He longed to do works that were pleasing to God, even after he had stumbled (sinned-repented) and despite the times his life was at risk. He showed many times that he loved and desired truth and integrity more than his own life.

If we are honest, we know that if we ask the Lord to thoroughly search us, then He will find imperfections in us. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” Perfection is not found in sinful man, it’s found in a sunless God!

With that said, when the Lord shows us our wrong attitudes, thoughts, words and actions, He wants us to do what David did and confess that we did wrong. David confessed his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51:3-4. “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.”

The turning point of transformation begins when we turn to God with open and complete transparency. We find in David’s transformation, as a result of this prayer, was made whole, full and complete. Israel was brought into harmony with God; and David’s son Solomon brought to Israel one of the most prosperous reigns Israel had ever known.

Keeping this in mind, let us consider praying to God in the same sequence as David prayed: First, let’s pray that God might know us; then pray that God might cleanse us; and lastly, pray that God might direct us.

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Pursue God!

MONEY says, “Pursue after me but, you’ll never have enough of me.” TIME says, “Pursue after me but, you’ll always complain about me.” FUTURE says, “Pursue after me but, you’ll struggle to reach me.” BUT GOD says, He is the distributor of all MONEY (Matthew 25:14-28), He transcends TIME (Col 1:16-17), and He holds the FUTURE in the palms of His holy hands (Phil 1:6).

Choosing to pursue God leads to deliverance and undoubtedly, God has never forsaken those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 give us a stark reminder that, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek [pursue] Him.”

Brothers and Sisters, we pursue or seek God because it’s our prestigious duty and because God is the SOURCE of our strength, peace, understanding, spiritual gifts, spiritual cleansing, anointing, wisdom, healing, deliverance, protection, growth, and to mention, our salvation. God is not a resource and He should never be treated like a supplemental vitamin.

Irrefutably, there will never be another god before Him and there will never be another god after Him! God is the King of kings and Lord of lords (I Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14, Rev 19:16).

Therefore, stop pursuing the perishing things the world has to offer and start pursuing the One who spins the world on its axis, not to mention galaxies known and unknown. Those who pursue God embrace His Word and ways while shrinking from those of man’s. They see the reality of the godly pursuit, which is permanent, versus the earthly pursuit which is temporal.

So,how do you actively pursue God? Here are a few tips to consider: read/study scripture-start anywhere, talk to Him (prayer), listen to Him (obedience), and get involved in a ministry (serve).

It’s not too complicated! In fact, pursuing God is like playing a game of hide-n-seek that He allows you win….every time you pursue Him.

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It’s Our Duty!

Psalm 150:6 says,”Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Before we start lifting holy hands and shouting, let’s review a few Hebrew translations for the word praise. One Hebrew word for “praise” is yadah, meaning “praise, give thanks, or confess.” A second word often translated “praise” in the Old Testament is zamar, “sing praise.” A third word translated “praise” is halal (the root of hallelujah), meaning “to praise, honor, or commend.” All three terms contain the idea of giving thanks and honor to one who is worthy of praise.

In Psalm 150 praise is used 13 times in 6 verses. The first verse provides the “where” of praise—everywhere! “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. The second verse teaches “why” to praise the Lord: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” In verses 3-6 we discover “how” to praise the Lord-with a sound: a variety of instruments, dance, and everything that has breath.

After reading these six verse we are able extract the “Who”, “what”, “where”, and “how” to praise, but “when” is it the best time to praise God?

For some of you, praise is an everyday thing, but for most people praising God doesn’t come easy especially when things aren’t going well.

I want to help those that falsely believe praise is contingent on their circumstances. I want to help encourage those believers that recognizes the “Who”, “what”, “where”, and “how”, but struggle with the “when”.

If this message is speaking to you, I want you to know that the deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of the pain, thanking God during trials, trusting Him when you are tempted to lose hope and choosing to love Him when He seems distant. Praising God is incessant and not contingent on your circumstances.

Remember this: When you are at your lowest-God is your Hope, when you are at your darkest-God is your light, when you are at your weakest-God is your strength, when you are at your saddest-God is your comforter, and when your pain is too much handle, God is your burden-bearer!

Brothers and sisters, it’s our duty and ‘response’(ibility) to praise God. Our praises to Him should never be contingent on our circumstances. We praise God because that’s what we’re created to do in the first place!! Psalm 100:3-4, says,“Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”

Fortunately, at the end of time, all of God’s people will join in eternal praise of God. “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship Him” (Revelation 22:3).

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EASY AS 1-2-3

“The LORD made the earth by his power, and he preserves it by his wisdom. With his own understanding he stretched out the heavens.” Jeremiah 51:15

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God’s Call and Favor!

When we appraise Joseph’s latter life we find a man living large and in charge. He rose to be the 2nd highest authority figure in all of Egypt (Genesis 41:37-40). However, when we review the full abstract of his life we find that he was the first biblical character to be human-trafficked by his own brothers and even falsely imprisoned.

If you’ve read his story then you know that his latter was much better than his former. As mentioned above, he ended up the number two guy in all of Egypt, saving millions from a devastating famine, and his own family, including the brothers that betrayed him.

Again, when you review the abstract of Joseph’s life how good do you think God’s favor and call upon Joseph’s life felt….good? Heck no, it probably felt horrible when he was in the pit, betrayed by his own flesh and blood brothers. I bet it wasn’t very comfortable when Potiphar’s wife lied about him making an advance on her, and then later thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit!

Bothers and Sister, the point of my message is that we should not equate God’s favor with a trouble-free life. Victory at the end of storm always looks and feels better after the storm passes! However, God’s call during the storm often requires discomfort because it’s really not about comfort, but more about Christ’s mission to save people of every tribe, nation, and tongue while He transforms you into His perfect imagine!!

It’s not uncommon for God to use your testimony as beacon of light to help guide the lost and backslidden back to Him. The Apostle Paul was called and favored by God, but he was also stoned, shipwrecked, bitten by a snake, mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and experienced all kinds of persecution for his radical conversion. Not to mention the Old Testament prophets. Ezekiel had to lay on his sides for over a year (Ezekiel 4) and according to tradition, Jeremiah was stoned to death by his own countrymen.

Case and point, God’s call and favor aren’t always easy, but they’re are always good. We can look to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection as our greatest example of this biblical truth.

We should always find solace in the fact we are messengers of the Great King, once crucified, now glorified. Our King calls us onto the front lines of a battle with eternal stakes. While we face the gates of Hell themselves, they will not prevail against us (Matthew 16:18). While God’s call and favor is inexhaustible, indefatigable, and immeasurable, they also pack a big punch that reflects the tapestry of God’s glory, goodness, and love for His creation!

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