Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Fruitful Christians

 Tuesday, August 31, 2021 Submitted by Donnie O’Fallon

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life ... Proverbs 11:30

Fruitful Christians

When Marsha and I moved to Springtown two years ago, there were five trees on our one-acre property. Two in the back, at the lower fence and three in the front yard but none close to the house. We enjoy their shade and coolness of trees from the Texas heat, sitting under their branches in certain seasons of the year.  So, we planted eight more trees in our back yard closer to the house. We had to water them several days a-week for several months to get them started. They are flourishing today, having grown in height, new branches, and leaves form the watering.

The Psalmist said in Psalms 1:3 something about a righteous man: He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yield their fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. What a beautiful analogy of the Christian life that is tethered to the “river of life,” that flows within every Child of God.

Jesus, speaking to his disciples and to all who heard his message, made some rather dogmatic statements and divisions, when He would say something like this: Being saved … or lost; children of light … children of darkness; assurance of / or not. He spoke of a broad path that led to destruction … a straight and narrower path which leads to life; a foolish man who built on a sandy foundation … a wise man who built on a sure foundation. There is a distinction the Scriptures make of the spiritual man and the carnal man. Jesus also said, I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5. Staying connected to God is one of His immutable laws.

Let me illustrate this analogy of a tree. There is a giant Sequoia tree in California named, “General Sherman.” It stands more than 272 feet tall, 79 feet in circumference, and has enough wood in it to build thirty-five (35) houses. Compare that to a Japanese Bonsai Tree. Its tap root is clipper, new growth is trimmed away, the small hair roots are also constantly being trimmed so that it cannot grow, so it stays the same size 12” to 18” high.  It became a mere novelty tree. Here’s a bit of irony, the seed of both these trees, the Sequoia and the Bonsai are the same size and weight, one - three hundredth of an ounce, (1/300 of an ounce). The difference in in how they are planted and nurtured. General Sherman, 272 feet tall and the Bonsai, only 18 inches tall. 

What’s your like life? Where have you planted it and how are you nurturing it? Are you connected to the source of life? Stop trying, start trusting and stay connected to Him daily!

Monday, August 30, 2021

When Discouragement Sets In...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11

When Discouragement Sets In...

Everywhere we turn right now it seems we can only see bad and sad things going on in our world. Not only are things seemingly hopeless for the most part, throw some fear into the mixture too and the future is looking grim.  When we feel hopeless about our future and circumstances it is easy for discouragement to take over.  

We have to look beyond this cloud of despair to God for true help and the promise of a better future.

When discouragement does set in, there are several things you can do to overcome:

Pray – Remember who God is and the power He holds.  He is a loving God who is consistent in character and it is His character to help His children.  He wants you to talk to Him, even though He already knows your every need.  Pour out your heart to Him in honesty and ask Him to open your eyes to see your circumstances clearly, and to see what He wants you to see. Ask Him for patience to endure until you learn all you are supposed to learn.  Wait on the Lord be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart.  Wait I say on the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Fill up your Spiritual Tank – Take some time to renew your relationship with God.  Rest in the comfort of His love and give yourself time to heal.  Set up a time to have a daily devotional or maybe join a Bible Study group if you feel ready.  It is great to find someone you trust to be an accountability partner and ask them to pray with you and for you during this time.  Now is not the time to sink back into the woodwork and disappear.  Go to church so you can have fellowship with other Christians.  You need their support and love and some of them may be going through the same thing you are.  

Take Care of Yourself Physically – If you need a break, take one.  Now is the time to heal physically as well as spiritually.  Rest, feed your body, and recover from the toll that stress takes on the body.  Protect this time for yourself.  You may have to actually make yourself a priority over someone else for a change. 

Refocus - Stop. We cannot focus on what is happening around us and find hope and a cure for discouragement. The times are extremely discouraging and this is exactly why looking to circumstances for hope will fail us every time. Circumstances change and the ground shifts and breaks open beneath our feet just when we think we have gained secure footing, but our God never changes. Focus on Him! 

Think about where you are and where you want to go.  Then put one foot in front of the other and move.  Some days you will have to force yourself, but you will not get better if you don’t move toward God.  Begin to perform the simple tasks that are so very important such as feeding the dog, taking care of the kids, doing the laundry.  It will feel good to accomplish something.  You must put one foot in front of the other and move.  

Resist – Satan will always be waiting to discourage you.  Pray for strength to resist these attacks.  Expect that there will be disappointments in life again and again and be ready.  Remember that God is with you even in the most lonely, discouraging moments.  Choose to trust God in the face of fear and ask Him for the courage to fulfill His purposes for you.  Remember, He is in control of your life and He does have a plan for you.  He may not change our circumstances the way we want Him to, but He will give you the encouragement you need to overcome. 

Satan uses discouragement to get into our hearts and minds. If he can do that, he can cause all kinds of destruction in our lives, so we must stay vigilant against letting him in. Take every thought captive - every thought that brings discouragement and hopelessness into your heart and mind -and give them to God. Take your hopelessness and feelings of discouragement to Him and ask Him for hope, courage, and strength in return. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Time of Discouragement

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Time of Discouragement

Nehemiah 4

The power of discouragement to stop us from experiencing success and achieving the purposes God has for us is great.  Here is a scripture-picture of how it can be dealt with from the book of Nehemiah.  

Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future.

There must be an expectation for there to be disappointment.

A Time of Discouragement – Nehemiah 4

I. Causes of Discouragement 4:10-12

·      Criticism of Others  

Satan loves to turn our ears to the sound of negative voices to bring about defeat.

·      Weariness from the Task

Don’t ever decide to quit when you are tired!  A weary body can negatively impact our decisions. 

·      Realization of Difficulty 

DISAPPOINTMENT – when things don't happen the way WE think they should. 

Unrealistic expectations can lead to unnecessary discouragement.  

Satan’s path to defeat: Expectation – Frustration – Disappointment - Discouragement – Disillusionment – Depression – Defeat

How often does our vision get lost in the multitude of details?  The energy comes from the VISION.

·       Loss of Confidence  

·       Loss of Security

Fear is behind more discouragement than we'd like to admit.

They were “listening to the jungle” or giving more attention to the enemy than the work.  

Momentary disappointment must never be allowed to stay long enough to conquer our spirit.

II. Actions to Defeat Discouragement 4:13-23   

·      Adjust your plan to the circumstances.  

·      Direct attention to the Lord.  

Our KNOWLEDGE of God determines the level of our FAITH. The reality of faith brings us HOPE.
The presence of hope changes discouragement to courage.

·      Remain vigilant against further attack

·      Remember you are not alone.

Discouragement feeds off of isolation.

·      Get back to work

Give your expectations to God and let Him work out His plan and purpose in your life!


Friday, August 27, 2021

The Powerful, Unfailing, Ever Present, Hands of God

Friday, August 27, 2021

 "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4 

The Powerful, Unfailing, Ever Present, Hands of God
Fears.  Everyone has them.  You’re probably reflecting on yours right now.  I am too.  Spiders, heights, failure, mean people…Our lists would likely be very similar.  Fear is normative to all of humanity.  Everyone is afraid from time to time.  But where do we turn when we are afraid?  When we are afraid, what makes us unafraid?

In the Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion delivered his great speech on courage.  But courage isn’t the absence of fear.  It is said that courage is the determination to go on in spite of fear.  With what do we go on when we are afraid?  In the passage above, the Psalmist wrote that in times of fear, we are to put our trust in God.  That trust is called “faith.”  Faith is that which gives us the courage to face our fears.  Hebrews 11:1 states: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” 

Faith assures us that our God, who has done what he said he would do before, will be faithful to do what he says he will yet do.  How often have we heard our Pastor say that “our strength is in direct proportion to our faith, and our faith is in direct proportion to our knowledge of God.”? And it’s true!  The more we learn about God, the more our faith is increased.  And the more our faith increases, the more we feel we can accomplish…even in light of the fear of that which is uncertain, or apparent that we cannot change.  Have faith in God!

So confident is the writer of the Psalm that he states: “In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.”  I do not expect that you and I are going to live this life never experiencing fear.  I do however encourage us, that in that hour of fear, we remember to place our confidence in the powerful, unfailing, ever present, hands of God.  Whether or not we can see how things are going to turn out, we place our trust in Him.  Fear not.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

What About Me

 Thursday, August 26, 2021

Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.  Luke 15:25-28

What About Me

What about me? How come they didn’t recognize me and what I have done? 
I have worked harder and put way more effort in than them.

Have you ever said these words, or at least felt this way? I think we all have at one time or another in our lives. In the story of the prodigal son, the older brother felt this way when the prodigal brother returned, and he found out that his father was planning a big party to celebrate. He was angry because he felt like it was unfair. After all he had been home all this time – always doing the right things and following all the rules unnoticed. He felt very entitled to have the attention that was going to his brother, because of his good behavior. His brother was rebellious and disrespectful of his father and his inheritance, yet they were celebrating him! 

Read verse 29 in the Good News translation: 

Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!"  Luke 15:29 GNB

The problem that this son was having was that he felt like all the works he had done should have earned him the recognition and reward his brother was getting. He didn’t feel like his father had rejoiced in him. He didn’t realize that the father was rejoicing because the brother was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found. He had come home and repented, regardless of all he had done wrong.  The older son had been there the whole time with the father, but instead of having a relationship with his father he was busy going through the motions, following rules, and doing all the things. The younger son may have been rebellious, had broken all the rules, and left, but he had realized the value of the relationship with the father, and had come home in repentance.

The same is true for us with our Heavenly Father. We can stay busy following rules, doing all the things, and staying in His house, but if we neglect the relationship, none of it really matters. Until we realize how we have sinned against Him, and repent, it is all in vain. He doesn’t care about our works if we have no relationship with Him. Without a relationship with Him, the works are only for us. He wants us to die to our sin and begin to live in Him, to have a relationship with Him.

Like the older son, we can get wrapped up in checking all the boxes and forget the joy and blessing of being with the Father. He loves us and wants a relationship with us more than He wants us to do the things. Then we can rejoice with Him when one who was dead in sin repents and begins to live, and when those who are lost have been found.

And he said to him, Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found. Luke 15:31-32


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

When You Walk Away From God

 Wednesday, August 25, 2021 Some material taken from Prone to Wander by Van Houser

The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. Luke 15:12-16

When You Walk Away From God

Walking away from God is serious business for anyone, but especially for a Christian. We know exactly what we are doing when we purposefully reject His authority in our lives to do what we want to do instead. 

From Brother Van’s sermon this past Sunday, we learned five things that can happen when we cast off God’s authority. 

·  Self is enlarged – The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. Luke 15:12    Exaggerated Sense of Entitlement: When we are choosing to turn from God’s leading and authority, we are sometimes in an “I deserve it” mentality. We think we deserve what we want, especially if we have been hurt by someone else, or things have been tough for a while. Some people believe that God wants them to be happy. Although God does love us very much and want good things for us, it is His sole desire for us to be happy. It is His sole desire for us to holy. Holiness will fulfill us and it permanent. Happiness is fleeting and dependent on our circumstances. God does not want us to sit here on earth happy and proud. It is the hard things in life that make us strong – and holy. Once again, chasing happiness will always result in more emptiness than we started with. 

·  Thinking is impaired –And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.  Luke 15:13 Stinking Thinking!  – Blinded to consequences! Chasing happiness will often lead us to pretty unpleasant consequences. Usually, these consequences are a part of our lives for a very long time (long after the happiness fades), if not permanently. The cost of chasing happiness is high. 

·  You find yourself in need – Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.  Luke 15:14 Bad decisions lead to poverty. We spend all our resources on what we think makes us happy and then we are VERY unhappy because we have not found fulfillment, but an empty bank account and debt. We may also find our heart is empty as well after pouring it out in all the wrong places. This is poor stewardship on all accounts – with our money and our time. We can go Home and be filled again by our Heavenly Father with everlasting satisfaction. 

·  You sell yourself cheap – So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. Luke 15:15-16a When we have emptied everything out looking for something we realize we aren’t going to find, we become desperate. Desperation drives us to do many things we would never consider doing otherwise, and it can also keep us there for a long time. We can quickly find ourselves in another “pigpen” because we don’t think we have a choice. We feel worthless and quickly forget that we are still royalty. God never disowns or disinherits us no matter what we do. We are too valuable to keep selling ourselves away to the world.

·  You Find Yourself Alone - …and no one was giving anything to him.”  Luke 15:16b If there is one thing that sin will give you it is loneliness. Even in our sin, our Father is waiting for us to “come to our senses” and turn back to Him. He is still there, never leaving nor forsaking us. 

What is it exactly that drives us away from the security, safety and provision of family or from God?  Part of the reason is selfishness, part idolatry, part dissatisfaction, part rebellion. When we are dissatisfied in our hearts, Satan can easily lure us away with shiny illusions and distractions. He knows we are looking, and he is more than happy to make us think he has just what we need. 

Then one day we wake up – face down in the muck – and we realize this is not what we want at all. Everywhere we have stopped along the way has not provided us with what we want either. That is the moment we come to our senses and realize that the authority and presence of our Heavenly Father is exactly what we needed and wanted all along. And He is there, waiting. 


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A Royal Identity

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So, he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.  Luke 15:14-16

A Royal Identity

In our lifetime, we will identify ourselves with many different roles, and our identities change according to what season we are in. We go from being a teenager to a young adult to a married man or woman. We are children, spouses, grandparents, friends, confidants, employees, and so much more. We can get our identities tangled up in what we do or what we like, instead of who we really are. It is easy to hide behind a false identity when we don’t want to deal with a certain area of our lives. Like the prodigal son in the sermon Sunday, sometimes we just get a wild idea about who we want to be or what we want to do without ever considering our relationship to God. We might do this on purpose – if we just want to do things our own way and not hear what He has to say. The prodigal son thought he knew what he wanted in life, and it didn’t line up with what his father wanted or knew what was best for him. After wandering from one place to another looking for the fulfillment he thought he would find, he literally ended up in the pigpen. 

I don’t know about you, but I have found myself in some “pigpens” in this life. Oh, they didn’t look like a pigpen on the outside. (I don’t think any of us ever intentionally seek out a pigpen.) They looked more like a palace. Satan is careful to make sure the pigpens don’t look like what they really are. They look like a store, a drink, drugs, a person, a job, or whatever it is that we think will make us satisfied or important, or popular, or fill the void in our hearts. What we are seeking we already have. What we want these pigpens to give us, He already has. In our identity as His son or daughter lies everything we could ever need or want. Every need we could have fulfilled, every empty inch satisfied. 

When we leave God’s authority – or care, we seek an identity in all the wrong things just like the prodigal son. He thought he wanted this life of extravagance and that would make him happy. As with anything in this world, the happiness or fulfillment we think we have found on this earth will fade quickly, leaving us to feel even more unsatisfied – or up to our knees in the muck of the pigpen. We too easily “wander” into all kinds of pigpens looking for something - something to make us happy, make us fulfilled, make us satisfied, or make us feel significant.

This can happen before we realize it. We jump from one pigpen to another, usually hopping a lot of fences before we realize we are not living the life we want to live. Most importantly, we are not the living life God wants us to live. Like the father in the story, our Heavenly Father loves us and wants the very best for us and that very best is only HIS very best. When we wander away, He is always waiting to welcome us home with open arms. 

Remember – we have an eternal identity that never changes, no matter what season we are in or what our circumstances are. The one identity that we have from the moment we are His can only be found in Him. All of our other identities should be built on this foundation. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:9-12

Monday, August 23, 2021

A Father's Care, Concern, and Compassion

Monday, August 23, 2021

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.  Luke 15:20-24

A Father’s Care
It seems almost impossible that anyone can go through life without believing there is God. But a similar, if not greater tragedy, is to go through life with a wrong picture or concept of God.  What is God really like? Jesus reveals the Father for us in the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Some say it should be titled the Parable of the Father because it shows us the right picture or concept of the Father.  Jesus shows us the Father cares for His children. There is God as He is and then there is God as you and I see and understand Him.  It is interesting that the greatest problems Jesus encountered were those who carried their own picture of what and who they thought about God.  Jesus drew the outcasts, publicans and sinners like a magnet.  Why? Because the Father is one who cares.

He is like the shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes after the one, until He finds it.  He is the Shepherd in Psalm 23 who … Provides, Leads, Guides, Comforts, Prepares, and Anoints forever.  He is like the father who has two sons, one living away and one at home. He welcomes home the wayward son and who pleads with the other son to forgive.  The point is to give us the correct concept of a Father who cares for all His children. 

A Father’s Concern
It’s hard to watch your children struggle.  We want to take away their pain and yet realize that it is the great teacher.  The son in the parable of the prodigal son, comes to his father and says in essence, "Dad, it appears that you're going to live a long while yet and I've been waiting a long time for my inheritance. I don't want to wait any longer for it, so give it to me now. I can't wait for you to die." 

We would be quick to say that he deserved what he got. But that's the way we see it when it is not our own children.  Who do you think suffered the most – the father or the son? Every parent knows the answer to that question. The son may have suffered, but nothing compared to what the father was going through.  The Father grieves over the sin of his children. 

A Father’s Compassion
While still in the pigpen, the son considers all that his father's servants have to eat.  The non-Christians get along better in life than Christians who are running away from God.  No one on earth is a miserable as a Christian backsliding into the world.  The son saw himself as "not worthy". Why did he ever think he was worthy? The truth is we were never worthy on our own. Our worth comes only through the cross and blood of Jesus Christ.  That's why the Father receives us in His love, mercy, and grace, regardless of how far we've gone.  He bathes and cleanses us from the filth of the world and restores us as sons and daughters as though we never left home.  Our Father gives us an example that any dad will find hard to live up to.  And yet, the more we can be like him the more we will bless our children.

He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Malachi 4:6

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Prone To Wander

Sunday, August 22, 2021 

Prone To Wander

Luke 15:11-32

It is a sad time when we find that we have wandered far away from our intended destination.  It is a tragedy when we find that we have wandered far away from who we really desired to be.  The good news is, we can always turn around and go back to become who God has made us to be.

The wandering spirit is a part of human nature.

The Characters of the Story

I. The Wandering Son v.12-19

What happens when we cast off God's authority?

·  Self is enlarged 

·  Thinking is impaired

·  Find yourself in need

·  You sell yourself cheap.

·  You Find Yourself Alone.  

Types of Wanderers

·  The Rebellious Wanderer

They think that other people are their problem.

·  The Selfish Wanderer  

Immaturity is the inability to connect actions and consequences.

·  The Wounded Wanderer

Hidden hurts close hearts and ears.

·  The Ashamed Wanderer

·  The Distracted Wanderer  

·  The Deceived Wanderer 

The darkest part of wandering until you’re lost is that you lose not only your sense of self...you forget Whose you really are.

One of the best days in your life as a prodigal is when you come to your senses.”

The beginning of the journey back home begins with confession and repentance.

The prodigal son qualifies his sin as against the Father.

II. The Loving Father v.20

The Father’s love does not depend on how good you are or what you do but His blessing is found in obedience to His will.

III. The Self-Righteous Son v.25-28

The older brother was in the house but missed the blessing of being with the father! 


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