Lord Please Build

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.Psalms 127:1

I know in the past I have talked about the topic of verses such as this or certainly something quite close. Having said that when I came across this scripture I started thinking from a different mindset and definitely wanted to expand on it.

Over the past years I have given more and more thought and effort to making sure everything in my life was truly the will of the Lord. Of course if I’m being honest I have failed in this over and over again. It can be very difficult at times to discern what the will of the Lord says and how He is directing us in our lives. At least I can say that is true for me in most instances. I know for me personally I have to allow His spirit to move in my and to be and rest or generally prayer. We’re all different in that part though, of that I’m certain.

When I look at this verse it just seems to not only further this thought but also collectively bring all of these ideas together. We can’t just seek the Lord in our decision-making. We have to seek His will in all things. Parts of our lives aren’t enough because I believe that indicates that we are holding on to certain parts of our will and our flesh. This wonderful verse even takes it one step further. If the Lord doesn’t build it, we labor in vain.

At the end of my time on Earth I would sincerely regret looking back and seeing that I didn’t follow Him and that my labor was in vain. The choice I think we all must make is to truly seek Him and His will. Nothing is too small or large to take before the Lord. Let’s continue to ask Him to build the house.

~Kenny Stahl

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

Don’t Get in a Hurry…Read All the Words

Why So Hurried?

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to begin a series with my student ministry on the book of Acts. I’ve read through all the accounts of the book, and as I was prepping, I noticed that I’d always rushed through part of the Pentecost account, and missed some very important wording. We find this passage in Acts 2:1-4

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (ESV) 

Almost every version/translation of scripture that I checked in, with the exception of the NIV, has some wordage that I never thought to get the detail on. A “sound like a mighty rushing wind” filled the house, and “tongues as of fire” stuck out to me. I’d always read that to say that there was a might rushing wind with fire tongues in the house. Maybe I’m sitting on this too hard, but as I thought about the significance of this, I began to do some research as to why Luke would’ve described this the way he did.

Instead of there being a huge wind in the house, there was the sound of a mighty wind and tongues as of fire. Now, like I said a minute ago, the NIV calls them tongues of fire, but that has been the exception to the rule with this verse, outside of possibly some other paraphrase versions. So why am I hung up on this? Well, because sometimes we miss what is actually written there and assume what it says.

Does it matter that there may not have been literal fire tongues above the disciples’ heads? I think so, and here’s why.

According to a commentary I read regarding this passage, Luke was using the best description he could about what the experience of the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples was like. This particular commentator mentioned that he used the wording because it was only something that God could’ve done. This made me look at things a bit differently because now I understood it to be the Holy Spirit and not some accurately thrown embers floating around.

Again, maybe I’m looking too far into this from a weird angle, but I believe that we sometimes rush through things and assume what God’s word says. This is dangerous. Mainly, I think, because we put words where they don’t belong, or we get them out of order and that can change the meaning of a sentence. The Holy Spirit descending could only be explained in writing, for the reader’s sake, as something so phenomenal that it could only be described as something God did. Now, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if there were floating tongues on fire, but I do know that the words used are a powerful description of what God had just done.

When we slow down and let God’s word saturate our heart, mind, and soul, we have the chance to hear and understand it more clearly. Don’t do what I’d done so many times before, spend time letting God’s word impact you. Like my last post last week, take time to let His goodness cover you.

To Have Childlike Faith

 

My kids make it look so easy. So effortless. So black and white.

Faith

If the Bible says it, then they totally believe it to be true….100% of the time. There is no cynicism, second-guessing, questioning, worry, or fear in the faith of our nine year old kids. Everything is matter-of-fact, and clearly stated in the Bible.

Take yesterday, for example. In preparation for the release of my first book, I’ve had to do a whole bunch of things that are completely out of my comfort zone: establish a business, get a tax ID number, set up a business banking account, talk to an attorney…and the list goes on. I returned from a trip to the bank with a stack of papers in my hand, and an overwhelming feeling of doubt.

I plopped down in my recliner, as a few tears seeped out of my eyes. “Mom, why are you crying?” our daughter asked.

“I just feel so overwhelmed and worried. There are so many things that I’m having to do that are new and different for me. I’m worried that I’m not doing things correctly.”

“Don’t worry, Mom,” she answered in a compassion-filled voice. “God has gotten you through writing the book. He will walk you through all of this too. Just do one thing at a time. You know He won’t leave you now that everything is almost finished.”

And there it was…the wisdom and truth I needed to hear. And all from a nine year-old child.

The Bible addresses this kind of faith in Matthew 18:3. “And he (Jesus) said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

Yesterday was a blinding reminder that I need to remember the promises God makes in the Bible, and that I need the faith of my children. I’m so thankful our daughter was there for me, and reminded me that God is too.

 

~ Jill Power

From Beginning to End


“If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭KJV‬‬

What a terrific promise this is, right? All we have to do is worship Jesus, and all is ours from beginning to end?

There’s only one problem. Jesus didn’t say this. Satan did. To Jesus. This was one of his ways of tempting the Lord after His fast.

One of the easiest ways that we are deceived as beleivers is in our lack of knowledge of the scriptures. Someone will quote something to us, and our reaction is either “I agree with that” or “surely it can’t say that” because we don’t know the context. “That’s the Old Testiment” we protest when we want to make a point against the scripture being quoted, “the Old Testament still applies!” we insist when trying to drive a different point home.

The most interesting part of Jesus’ temptation at the devil’s hand is that every answer He gave came from scripture. He knew it intimately and in context. His replies were sharp and pertinent. Satan knew scripture; our Lord knew it better.

This week I implore you to stop taking scripture at face value. Have your favorites, sure, but dig deeper. If you claim to believe it from beginning to end, then get intimate with it from begging to end.

Self-Centering

For Father’s day this year my kids gave me a new set of bits for my cordless drill and a tape measure. I was excited because I can always use a new set of bits and no matter how many tape measures you have you can always use one more. (It also seems like no matter how many tape measures you have you can never find one when you need it.)

As I was looking at my gifts I noticed that this was not just a plain old tape measure, it was a self-centering tape measure.
When a person is restoring or building something, it is always important to work from the center for everything to turn out right. I have no idea how many times I have had a calculator out trying to figure out the center of something. Well, with this tape I will not have to do that anymore, it shows you the midpoint of any measurement (if you can find the tape measure when you need it).

Take some time this week to think deeply about Philippians 2:1-4. In this passage, Paul tells us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

When we are not allowing the Spirit of God to work in our lives, we are very much like this self-centering tape measure, everything we do and say is selfishly motivated.

The Bible tells us that we are self-centering sinners.

At the midpoint of our hearts is that infamous two letter word, ME. What would happen if you took a leap of faith, turned to Jesus Christ and made Him the center of everything you do and say?

How would your life change if you truly strived to do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit but in humility counted others as more significant that yourself? Who is ruling at the center of your life?

Are you ruled by the infamous ME or the Savior Jesus Christ?

I am never more miserable than when I allow ME to become my focus and I am never more content than when I allow Christ to be the center of all that I do.

May God help us to keep Jesus as the center of our lives!

 

~TJ Joyner, Pastor, Walnut Springs Baptist Church

Do Not Worry

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6

Just before this first, the end of verse 5 says, “The Lord is at hand;” reminding us that the Lord is always present, always near, always available.

When you read a scripture like verse 6, do you believe it? Do you still worry or get anxious about things? Why?

When you do feel anxious, is  your immediate reflex to humbly come before the Father in prayer? When do you come before Him,  is your vision so focused on your worry that you forget to thank Him for all of the things He is doing in you and around you? I do. I get tunnel vision on problems too. But, I want to do better.

The best way to build spiritual “muscle memory” is to practice. What worries to you have right now at this moment? What are you thankful for right now? Let’s go to the Father and talk with Him for a moment.

God bless you and your families!

~ James Oliver

 

Photo Credit: Jake Oates

I feel that God…

Have you ever heard a person say something to the effect of, “I don’t feel convicted over that…” or “I sense that God wants me to be who I am…”, and so on? I have. I fear that there is a great deception taking place in our world, and even in our churches. A deception that says God is all sense and feeling, and what we feel about Him must be true and right, because we feel it must be so. I hear this most often in reference to a sin. Friends, I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that this feeling/sensing way of believing is wrong. It does not line up with God’s Word and a person may come under judgment for continuing in that way of thought. The good news, though, is that God does not leave us with question marks when we seek to know who He is and what He expects of us. We do not have to wonder! His Word clearly shows us His character, from creation to the arrival of Jesus and beyond.

In Malachi 3:6, God says, “For I the Lord do not change…” So, when we read of His commands to repent, to turn back to Him, to deny ourselves, to follow Him and His ways, we must remember that He has not changed His ways or character!

In 1 Peter we find this charge:

Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory so that your faith and hope are in God. 

By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again – not of perishable seed but of imperishable – through the living and enduring word of God.

Later in chapter 2, Peter urges his audience to abstain from fleshly desires that war against them. There is a call to good works, not as a means of salvation, but as an outward showing of whose we are. In 2 Peter, he states the world is corrupt, seeking to satisfy their evil desires. In 2 Peter 1:5, he charges again: For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.

He continues with warnings for you and me. Abstain from the world. Deny your flesh. In essence, just because it feels right or good, does not make it so! The Bible is filled to the brim with God’s character and instruction. Yes, He is a loving and merciful God, but to those who fear Him. The author of Hebrews warns in chapter 11 that if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer a sacrifice for our sins! He states that judgment waits instead, for he who tramples on the grace of Jesus! In the case of our faith, willful ignorance is NOT bliss. God has made His ways plain to us, and all He asks is for our hearts to turn to Him, and away from what feels right and good in our corrupted world. Now, don’t hear me say that you will be saved by your works! Of course not! Jesus is our means of salvation, but He does ask us to obey and turn to Him. We have a clear guide in scripture, and we should go to it. We should seek it out and not lean on our own understanding.

Let us not be a people who feel or sense our way through the darkness, but instead, let us pick up the light of His word, and use it to illuminate our path.

*There is so much more scripture! Go read your Bibles and seek out His truth. I can only fit a small amount here, but you will be blessed when you search His words and learn more about who He really is. 🙂 

He Became Sin

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

Jesus.

When the apostle Paul wrote this verse, he was speaking of Jesus. Jesus was perfect in every way. He lived in flesh as a human, and yet never sinned. He was always obedient to the Father. Every. Single. Time.

I think we sometimes think that in Jesus’ perfection, he was never really tempted by sin. But, this is contrary to what we learn from the author of Hebrews when he wrote: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)(emphasis mine). Jesus was tempted just like we are. There were probably opportunities for him to desire something different than complete obedience to the Father, but simply didn’t go there. In his actions, nor in his heart.

So, Jesus, who never, not one time, sinned.. He became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. Because of Jesus, the chains of sin have been broken. They’ve fallen. The chains no longer have a hold on us.

Have you been set free? Have you trusted Jesus to pay the wages of your sin? Or, will you stand before The Judge on the day of Judgement and be required to pay the wages of your sin?

If you’re free, thank Jesus right now! Sing a song of praise to Him. Tell someone that you’ve been set free and they can be set free also!

~ James Oliver

 

Photo Credit: Katie Chase

Fear Not, For I Am With You

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 ESV

I shared this verse on Facebook yesterday. We all go through tough times where we struggle with things. Life can sometimes beat us up pretty good and try to drag us down into depression or maybe worse… indifference.

It’s when we feel the most alone, that we need to go to God. When Paul was in prison, this is what the author of Acts says he was doing: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…” (Acts 16:25). Locked up, in probably a nasty prison cell, without television or modern amenities, they were praying and singing hymns to God. Sometimes, instead of doing this, we’re asking God “Why is this happening to me?!”. In many cases, you’re doing exactly what’s right, but the enemy is doing all he can to fight against you. Spiritual warfare is real!

The good news is, when we let God go before us, we have nothing to fear. Nothing to worry about. If God is for us, who can stand against us?

The next time things are not going the way you think they should be, go to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to strengthen you, to help you, and to uphold you with his righteous hand. Sing songs of praise to him. You can do this no matter where you are.

God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.

 

Photo Credit: Jason Blackeye

Sharpness of the Tongue

“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” James 3:5

I have felt for a while that I wanted to mention a few thoughts regarding this scripture. I have also felt like I either mentioned them before or that someone else has with Inscription. Either way this has been the direction the Lord led me this week.

In 2012 a lighting strike started a fire in my hometown of Ruidoso. One small spark. It started a fire that would eventually burn approximately 40,000 acres and destroy almost 250 homes. What was one small common lighting strike caused damage and devastation beyond words. It also led to worry and concern for thousands of other residents that were in jeopardy of losing literally everything they had. One small spark was all it took.

When we look at the power of the tongue we must also appreciate the gravity of its capabilities. It can exude feelings of so much love, hope and happiness. Unfortunately, it can also be the cause of destruction, devastation and anger. As this scripture says it is but a small part of the body and yet it can change courses and lives in the most drastic manner.

How many of us have been affected by the kindest words and also devastating ones from the tongue of others? Obviously there isn’t anyone that hasn’t experienced both at some point in our lives no matter how short or long. On the other hand, how many of us have allowed our tongues to inflict such pain and destruction upon someone else? Dare I say we all have? I am certainly not casting stones here. It’s the basis of our flesh, it almost cries out for us to behave this way. The flesh yearns for us to cause this pain to others knowing that it will begin a path of destruction for both the person who gives in to their tongue and also the person listening. Hate will begat hate. However, love will begat love.

We must understand the power of our own fleshly tongue to realize how we can neutralize it’s power. As is the case so many instances the answer lies in the love of Jesus Christ. When we submit to His will and follow his instruction to love we see that we no longer yearn or want to cause pain or destruction with merely a spoken word. We all find that responding in love will allow us to counteract so many situations that could cause our flesh, as well as others reactions, to come to a boil.

One of my last posts was regarding being slow to anger. This follows directly along that line. Slow to anger will calm your tongue. Calming and controlling your tongue will allow you to speak the love of Christ and avoid the pitfalls that your words can easily get you into. Easier said that done I know, but it’s a mark we all should continue to strive for. Let us all just know that all it takes is one spark to ignite that can easily come from our tongue unto others.

~ Kenny Stahl

 

Photocredit: https://unsplash.com/search/tongue?photo=HfVsqRXkUmc