Positive Thoughts?

Think on These Things: 

Php 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 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. 

Anytime someone is going through a trial, heartache or expressing a need they need positive reinforcement. In fact often when you hear someone share a burden on social media a common response more and more is the new catch phrase, “positive thoughts.” What exactly does that mean? Well that all depends on who you ask but I will tell you what I believe it means and how Christians should respond in these circumstances. 

It means I am trying to be “politically correct.” 

More and more we live in a culture that is trying to be politically correct in anything we say or do. Yet the bible says that what we say or do and even put into our bodies should be to the glory of God. 

1Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Col 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Sadly, many Christians today don’t even want to bow their head in prayer in a public restaurant for fear of backlash. Now, in our social media addicted society we can’t even say, “I’m praying for you.” Friends, in the middle of a bad circumstance or trial is the best time to give positive reinforcement to a non-believer or suffering Christian. Let us not worry so much if someone will be offended because we mentioned prayer or gave a scripture reference that is relevant to the situation. Let’s worry more about being biblically correct than politically correct. I also do not mean we should use this as an opportunity to be “preachy.” Use discretion but don’t be afraid to use biblical principles to give positive reinforcement.

What is Positive Reinforcement?

By positive reinforcement, I am speaking of what the bible says we should emphasize. A quick analysis of the above text speaks of many important principles. It speaks of not worrying about the little things, it speaks of prayer, it speaks of the peace of God, it reminds us God is control, and commands us to focus on the positive not the negative where it concludes, “think on these things.” Furthermore, it evens tells us in detail what we should think about. Christians I can positively tell you that prayer works. I can tell you with confidence that the bible is true. I can tell you with assurance I know what Jesus did for me. I can tell you how God hand has been in my life through difficult, unpleasant and even lonely times. This is what I consider real positive reinforcement. So, the next time someone is asking for “positive thoughts” don’t be afraid to give the biblical thoughts. Maybe it’s not appropriate to engage in long conversation on social media but maybe it’s helpful to tell that friend that you will be praying for them, possibly share a quick scripture reference and then follow through. By follow through I mean you should pray for them. Secondly, you should follow up with them directly and ask how they are doing or how you can help.

Don’t be censored

Friends it’s a matter of principle. The bigger picture is not just about the expression in question but whether we are going to allow society tell us what we can and can’t say. Are we going to let culture tell us we can’t speak of spiritual solutions to life’s problems? Are we content with “positive vibes?” (I want to insert an eye roll here) No, give me something biblical. Send me a devotional. Build a wall of prayer around me. Adrian Rodgers said, “I will be civil but I won’t be silent.” Christians, let’s speak out of love with biblical boldness.

Ac 14:3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hand

Eph 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

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Average Christians

How to be an above average Christian: 

Ac 2:42 ¶ And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

People who want to succeed in life are never average. When we search for something special, we don’t desire just average. For example, if we search for childcare, although price is a factor it is not the main concern. You look for a childcare facility that has a good record and reputation. When you go out for that special anniversary or birthday, you don’t settle for an average restaurant, you seek out a quality place to dine for the special occasion. Here are 5 quick thoughts using the text above on how to be an above average Christian: 

Emphasize the Bible-vs 42

There must be a special emphasis on the Word of God. In Acts 2 after people got saved and baptized, the Bible says they continued in the apostle’s doctrine. They made the Bible and what they were being taught a priority. This may seem redundant to hear but it is so critical. Just reading your Bible every day, even on the days you don’t feel like it, puts you in a special class. Most of us feed our bodies 3 times a day. It should be obvious that we need to feed our spirit daily, otherwise we become spiritually malnourished. People often say, “Pastor, my faith is not strong.” Well truth be told; your diet of the Bible is probably not what it should be. 

Ro 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Fellowship with God’s People -vs 42

I must acknowledge that in most Baptist churches when we say “fellowship” most connect it with food. There is some truth to this and there are even some scriptural references that would support this practice. However, Fellowship according to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary refers to it as: “companionship, association or partnership.” Who do you associate with? What are your associations? It is critical to have good fellowship with God’s people. This includes faithful church attendance. The Bible even says we should put consideration into our fellowship. 

2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

The fact of the matter is we are all influenced by people which is why we should be very cautious who we allow to influence us. 

1Co 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

Have a Strong Prayer Life vs 42

Prayer takes work! Prayer takes time! Prayer takes consistency! Anytime you see a person God has greatly used, whether in the Bible or someone you know personally, you know they all had a strong prayer life. It has been said that, “Prayer is the link that connects us to God.” You will never be more than an average Christian if you don’t have a regular, planned prayer life. Thousands of Christians wake up each day searching for answers and they look everywhere except where they should be looking. 

Jer 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Learn to Give Cheerfully vs 45 

Our main text shows us that people sold their possessions to meet the needs of others. That is what we call sacrificial giving. Many times, the automatic response is, “Pastor, I can’t afford it.” Friend, you can’t afford not to. When we fail to give the Lord what belongs to Him, we fail to trust him. I will not spend too much time on the point, but the Bible tells not to just give but to give cheerfully. 

2Co 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Do your part to Spread the Gospel vs 46 

The Bible tells us that they went “house to house” and not just in the temple. Paul taught the scriptures publicly and from house to house. 

Ac 20:20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house

We are also told in the book of Acts that they did everything they could to “publish” the Word of God. 

Ac 13:49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

That means in church, house to house, at your place of business, at the grocery store, at school, your neighbors and everywhere you go. One of the methods we do this is by literally going door to door despite those that believe it is not relevant for today. Personally, I find it fascinating that we expect our missionaries to go soul winning but don’t expect our churches to do that in our local communities. I also find it repulsive that “gospel” preachers are willing to go anywhere to preach the gospel on any platform but won’t walk to the porch across the street to give the gospel to their neighbor. We ALL as Christians have a responsibility to share the gospel. 

Mr 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 

Friends I know that many of the principles shared in this devotional are very basic and elementary yet I’m finding more and more that the average Christian does not faithfully practice them. It’s like the pro basketball player who forgets to practice dribbling, lay ups or free throws. It’s time we get back to the fundamentals of the faith. Since God shed his blood on Calvary for me, He deserves committed Christians who desire to be “above average.” If you practice these biblical principles, you will by default be an above average Christian.

“Refuse to be average. Let your heart soar as high as it will.” -A.W. Tozer 

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That’s Not Fair

 

That’s Not Fair

What to do when you are treated unjustly: 

Mt 5:43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

We live in a culture that promotes the idea of “looking out for # 1,” but the scriptures teach the exact opposite. Think of the story of Joseph who was treated unfairly by his older brothers and sold into slavery. Not long after that he ended up in prison because he was lied about. Joseph had a chance for revenge against his brothers but chose to have mercy and even testified that, “God meant it for good.” In Acts chapter 7 we find Stephen was being stoned to death, yet his response was, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” 

In our text we see Christ is referring to a worldview idea or tradition in stating that “it hath been said.”  Jesus had a greater lesson by saying, “but I say unto you.” Just for the record it is always better to go with what God’s Word says vs what you have heard! Here are a few simple thoughts on what to do when we are not treated right.

  1. Love them anyway.

It is not difficult to love my children. Do I get frustrated with them? Absolutely! Who doesn’t? I truly believe in love at first sight when it came to the birth of my children. My instinct as a father is to love and protect them. Loving someone who would be considered an enemy is more difficult. Now for clarity’s sake the context of the scripture is referring to a person you have personally interacted with and has treated you wrong. The commandment from the Lord was to love them. Now we must acknowledge that is not easy to do. Most of the time when I counsel people on this scripture their response is something like, “well you don’t know what they have done to me,” or “you don’t know how they hurt me,” or “they don’t deserve it.” Nobody said they didn’t hurt you and nobody said they deserve it. We are speaking about matters of obedience to Christ. Doing the right thing is not always the easy thing to do but it is still the right thing. Christ simply said to love them despite what they have done to you.

 

  1. Bless them from time to time

Ok so we know the Lord has ordered us to do something that’s not easy. Let’s be honest, we really don’t want to. Let me be even more honest, its because of our pride. Let me remind of you of something I read recently. “Pride is the only poison that is healthy for you when swallowed.” Now that is a tough pill to “swallow,” but since we have that out of the way it raises the question, how do we love them anyway? By blessing them from time to time. An example would be to send a simple word of encouragement to let them know you are praying for them. Even send them a random gift. Maybe send a gift and don’t sign your name to it. This is not primarily for their good as much as it is for your heart. One of the most humbling experiences I have had to endure was to send someone a gift that I did’t believe deserved it. I have literally left the post office in tears because it humbled me so much. I never regretted sending a gift or trying to be a blessing in some way but always walked away knowing it was the right thing to do. It really helped me to not let a “root of bitterness” spring up within me. How do we start to show brotherly love? Be a blessing however you can.

  1. Go out of your way to be kind

You can be a blessing to someone and them never know it. I think you must have personal interaction to really show your kindness or “be good to them.” Being a blessing will be a good for your heart, being kind will be good for their spirit. It is letting them know even if unkind words word said, unkind deeds were done that it is not going to affect your character as a Christian. If you run into them at the store, my advice is to not avoid them but go out of your way to greet them and say hello. Again, then our flesh speaks up and says, “I am not doing that” Friend lets just go back and call it for the ugly thing it is, PRIDE! That’s the reason we say, “I can’t” or I should say “I won’t!” It is easy to be kind to those who are kind to you. It shows character and Christian love to be kind to those who have not been kind to you. In fact, Christ later in the same text referenced that is exact point.

Mt 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?      47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

It’s not impressive to say, “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” If you love, bless, are kind to your family and friends only there is no reward in that. The business world will even be kind to you when you are kind to them. Christians are kind to others especially when others are not kind to you.

  1. Pray for them

Finally, Christ tells us to pray for them. I don’t believe that when Christ says, “pray for them” that he means, “Lord I pray you send vengeance upon them.” Remember that belongs to the Lord.

Ro 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

There are certain things in the scriptures that God said belonged to him. Vengeance is one of them. I do not advise getting into the practice of taking something that God says belongs to him. God said this tree is mine, don’t touch it! We then seen the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Because of the day we live in let me note that blasting someone on social media is taking vengeance. Let’s also not be fooled into thinking that because we didn’t mention their name that it’s ok. You put it out there because wanted them to know or get back around to them. Worse than that if you are completely honest with yourselves you know you intentions were not pure. If there is truly a problem with that brother or sister then let’s get back to doing the biblical method of restoration and “go to thy brother,” and not to social media or wherever else we choose to air our dirty laundry.

Friend pray for them out of a good heart. Pray sincerely for them. Pray that God bless them. Pray that God will open the doors to make things right. I’m not saying you must be best friends, I’m saying according to the scriptures to live peaceably.

Ro 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Before you say I have tried, make sure you followed the pattern given by Christ in this devotion.

None of us deserve to be treated like God has:

The truth is if we all got what we deserved God would have sent us straight to hell. The bible tells us there is there is “none that doeth good, no, not one.” In Romans 3:12. God has been good to us even when we didn’t deserve it. God has been gracious enough when we didn’t earn it. God has been merciful when we should have been punished. Let’s follow the lesson and example of Christ and treat people good, even when they have not treated us good.

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Dealing with Criticism

Dealing with Criticism

1Sa 30:6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

How to handle the critics

There is not one single Christian who has served the Lord for any length of time without their fair share of criticism. In fact, all CEOs, entrepreneurs, successful athletes, pastors, preachers, church leaders, politicians (good or bad) have dealt with their fair share of criticism. Throughout the scriptures you will find many occasions where God greatly used a leader but it came with much back biting and criticism. 

1. Don’t respond directly 

In our text above we find a story of David who was “greatly distressed” because of what the people had been saying they wanted to do to him as a result of a decision he had made. David had led his men into battle and while he was away the city was burned and the women and children were taken captive. It is important to note that one of the key methods David used to handle his critics was actually not responding to them directly. It is very wise when dealing with critics to always pray before responding. It should be noted that not all criticism is bad, therefore we should always consider the critic and their intent. I receive, invite and welcome constructive criticism (which I personally interpret as instruction) from wise and godly sources. 

Pr 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

2. Seek the Lord first

David, even during a difficult time sought the Lord before deciding his next move. The men may have forgotten during this stressful event that David was suffering personally as well. This is part of leadership. People don’t realize that we may already be hurting on the inside. Nevertheless, David drew closer to the Lord and encouraged himself in the Lord. David got his strength, his confidence and direction from God. After David received the help from God he needed then he had the wisdom on how to respond. In this case God told him to pursue after the enemy and rescue his family and claim the victory. 

3. Control your emotions 

It is easy in the heat of the moment to lash back out. People often pride themselves on speaking their mind, yet the scriptures state that this is not necessarily good. 

Pr 29:11 ¶ A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. 

Even though all the fingers were pointed at David it did not seem he was interested in pointing the fingers back. One thing I have learned in leadership is that when things go right, you share the praise; when things go wrong, you take responsibility. David could have played the blame game but he didn’t. David, regardless of his emotions pondered within himself and took the matter to the Lord. We need to remember this important step when dealing with critics. Its easy to speak our minds, it shows character to control our emotions and do the right thing. Even as a pastor I have had people sit across the table or desk on multiple occasions with attack after attack or criticism after criticism. My pride wanted to respond and lash back out but it would only make matters worse. I wish I could tell you I always responded properly but I am still a work in progress. “Character Under Construction” 

Pr 15:1 ¶ A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Another important aspect to remember is that all of this was just rhetoric. The bible says the people “spake” of stoning him but they never actually did. It is so interesting that we always allow ourselves to get into an uproar over what people are saying but not actually doing. Many times people try to put teeth to their bite by saying “people are saying” but most often I have learned its actually just one or two. People are going to talk and we can’t help that but don’t let it distract you from the task at hand. 

4. Remember whats important

David despite the pressure, distress, and the critics, was able to keep his focus. He didn’t respond directly, he sought the Lord. He didn’t act irrationally, he remembered what was important. What was important was to rescue his family and the rest of those taken captive. What is important to me as a pastor is to “rescue the perishing and care for the dying.”  It is so easy to be distracted by critics that we forget what is most important. I have often received lots of criticism for my evangelistic efforts but it has always been by those who are not evangelizing. It reminds me of the story of D.L. Moody who was criticized by a lady for his evangelistic efforts to which he responded with something like this; “I’m sorry, I don’t like the way I do it either, how do you do it?” to which she replied, “Well I don’t do it.” Moody replied, “Well I like the way I’m doing it better than the way your are not doing it.” What’s most important is to please the Lord. Focus on God’s will for your life. Personally I have learned one of the best ways to respond to critics is to simply accomplish the task they said you could not do. Let the critics talk, seek the Lord, and finish the task God gave you to do. 

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Helping A Brother Out

Helping A Brother Out

Getting Help When I needed Help

Ga 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Everyone needs help from time to time. Whenever I make the decision to do something I tend to always pick the hardest avenue to do it. Maybe it is due to my ignorance, lack of research or just the fact that a big part of my personality is the greater the challenge the greater the reward so maybe it didn’t really matter. I remember very vividly running my first half marathon (13.1 miles) on April 1, 2017. It is known as one of the prettiest half marathons in the country, but little did I know it comes at the expense of 29 rolling hills to the finish line. All the runners who spoke to me on this journey are very encouraging, but many were shocked to find out this was my first half. In fact, there response was generally, “Why did you pick this as your first half?”

In the process of running my first half I became very fatigued especially the last 4 miles after the dreaded “mile 9.” I could feel my feet bleeding, but I refused to stop and examine them in fear that I would just want to quit. So, I kept moving, slow, but I was moving. The last couple of miles was more walking than running. As I was approaching the final mile just ready for it to be over I looked up and there was my sister. It should be noted that she flew in from Florida to run my first half marathon with me. She had already finished her race, but she came back for me. She came back mainly for moral support. It was impossible for her to literally pick me up and carry me. She could not finish the race for me, so it was purely for motivation purposes. I was mentally and physically exhausted at this point. However, seeing what my sister had done, and knowing she didn’t have to do what she did greatly encouraged me. It made me forgot about the pain in my feet. It made me forget how tired I was. It made me forget about the bleeding blisters on my feet. It helped me focus on the task at hand and that was to get across the finish line. My sister literally came and “helped a brother out.”

How It Relates to the Christian

In this Christian race we are in it is so easy to focus on our own fatigue, our pain and our wounds that we forget that there are others running the race too. My sister didn’t have to come back for me and though she was and still is a much better runner than I, I don’t doubt that she was fatigued as well. She put herself aside to help her brother. Friends this is critical in helping us to endure. I have heard it said before that “we go through what we go through to help others go through what they are going through.” The bible tells us to “bear ye one another’s burdens.” Let us not get so distracted by our own problems that we fail to recognize the problems in other people’s lives. I have learned by experience that helping others out helps me to not focus on myself. Meeting needs for others has often even give a different attitude on my own circumstances. Many times, it has even made me realize my problems are not as bad as I thought they were. We serve God by serving others. What many don’t know and don’t realize that often when I try to meet the need of another person that its on those days that I am facing the greatest battles in my own life. This truly does bring me joy. In fact, that is the basic recipe for joy.

How do you obtain real Joy? 

Jesus

Others

Yourself.

If we keep our priorities in that order it does help to bring joy in our lives. I get joy making others happy. I get joy making someone smile. I get joy helping to meet a need. Keep Christ first in your life but remember to help bear burdens for others. Let’s determine maybe even today to “help a brother out.” Christ put us before he put himself.

Php 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.      5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

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Run With Patience

Run With Patience

Heb 12:1 ¶ Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Learning to run with patience…

It has been said that  “the christian race is not a sprint but a marathon.” Twenty-six years ago I got into the christian race when I received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. In July of 2016 I ran my first 5k (3.1 miles). Less than two years after that, in April of 2018, I ran my first marathon (26.2 miles) . I am not a sprinter or what many would consider a fast runner. Our people at Calvary Road Baptist Church have often heard me say “I am not a thoroughbred horse type of runner,” which is bred for speed that you would likely find in the bluegrass of Kentucky. I am more of a clydesdale horse bred for strength and endurance! I train for endurance and literally for the long run. God has used this to give me some spiritual insight on the Christian race. Everyone has seasons of burdens and heartache. Everyone has had their seasons of reaping and sowing. Everyone has had their time of growth and setbacks. Anyone with a sincere desire to serve the Lord has had times where they felt close to the Lord and has had times where they have strayed away. For the record, even the scriptures remind us that we all stray away.  Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; 

The literal race and the christian race

I have come to find the above reference in Hebrews 12:1 to be very true in the christian and physical race. There are many factors that affect the way we run. The bible makes it clear to lay aside the “weight and sin.” Unfortunately these weights and sins affect our performance or service to the Lord. I believe that there is a spiritual application to be made that weights refer to pressure and/or stress that affect the mind, while sin directly affects our heart. These weights and sins influence our spirits and attitudes as well. Life circumstances, burdens, trials, storms, jobs, school, relationships, health conditions, financial trouble, worries, fears or things that weigh us down distract our minds which affect our service. God is concerned with us giving him our heart, soul, and minds.  Mt 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  

When we are caught in sin or when there is hidden sin in our life it has even more drastic consequences in our relationship and service to the Lord. The bible says,  Pr 28:13 ¶ He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. There is other scripture such as the story of Achan that shows us how even sin in the life of one man can hinder the progress of a nation and have adverse effects on his family. Sin does not just affect ourselves but always affects those around us as well. 

Statistics show that less than 1 percent of the population in America. (.5% to be exact) have actually ran a marathon in their lifetime. Marathon training takes a lot of patience, preparation, physical fitness and frankly, mental toughness. Statistics also show that in today’s culture that there is a drastic decline in church involvement and attendance. Many start well but don’t finish well. Many get into the christian race but don’t finish the course. What a powerful statement given by the Apostle Paul when he said,  2Ti 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 

It is our goal through this blog and devotions we will share to help keep christians encouraged to “run with patience.” Pray with us as we pray for you that we “finish our course,” that we “run the race” and that we “press toward the mark” (the finish line) in this Christian Race! 

 Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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