Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Letting Go and Moving Forward

Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14


Letting Go and Moving Forward

No one can move into a new beginning while still clinging to the past, or letting the past hold them back. We can become so encumbered by the mistakes of our past that we can find it difficult to move forward. Many of us have felt that snare because this is one of Satan’s favorite places for us. As long as we are looking back, it is impossible to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. God may have great plans for the future but until we let go and take the first step in the new direction, we won’t know the plan He has for us. For the next three days we will look at the words of Paul in Philippians chapter 3 that hold some great lessons for us to embrace as we move into this new season. 

The first step into moving forward into any new season for anyone is to let go of the past. If our eyes are on what’s behind us, we cannot focus on what is ahead. 

Five lessons we can learn from Paul:

1.    We all have an imperfect past - forgetting what lies behind…

Everyone has something in their past they are ashamed of. We all have blemishes and stains that we’d just as soon no one knew about or that we’d just as soon forget. The apostle Paul was no different.  He had a pretty ugly past in persecuting the church, and my guess is that he had plenty of time to reflect on the shame of that.

Paul was a religious guy even before he met Christ.  He was a Pharisee; he was an up and coming religious leader who had the trust of the religious establishment during the early days of the Church.  He could quote Scripture and he attended the synagogue probably every week. All of his religion didn’t keep him from having a past that he wasn’t proud of.

You might have grown up in church, you might have been involved in church, you might have been a church leader of some sort; but just the same, you have an imperfect past. It’s imperfect because of the presence of sin in your life. It’s imperfect because you have chosen your way over God’s way many times.  

2.    We don’t have to be a slave to that past.

Paul could have said, “I put people in prison, and I voted for the death penalty for Christians I arrested. There is no hope for me, and there is no way I could ever be used by Christ.”  But he insisted here that he had something worth moving on for. 

He could look back on the fact that Christ redeemed him from his past and was continually working in him. He says here that in spite of his past, he was moving on. How does he say it? “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”  He recognized his past, but he refused to be a slave to it. Even now as a mature believer he knew there was more.

How many people look at their past circumstances and decide that it’s just not worth trying anymore?  Way too many, for sure. Some might think they’ve got it all together and don’t need to work on strengthening their relationship with Christ. But if we look to Paul here as our example, we can see that it’s never too late, and our circumstances don’t need to stand in the way of our effectiveness for Christ.

God has something for you to reach for - His goal for us is the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Our past does not disqualify us from this call on our lives. His forgiveness and redemption erase our past. He has given us the freedom to break away from what lies behind – and forget it! 

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Cultivating Truth in the Renewal of Our Minds

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old… Lamentations 5:21

Cultivating Truth in the Renewal of Our Minds
Renewing ourselves in Christ is a daily need, and on some days, we need it more than once. Every day we need:
  • Renewal of our Minds 
  • Renewal of our Strength 
  • Renewal of our Steadfastness
RENEWING = comes from the root, to restore. It speaks of renovation. 
The old saying of, "garbage in, garbage out" tells how our minds need renovating.  The mind is incredible.  We can store and retrieve information in our minds that far exceeds the most advanced computer. Today more than ever before we have to be intentional with what we let in our minds and in the minds of our children. There is false prophet and deceitful information everywhere and Satan is on the prowl. The influence of some dangerous people through social media platforms can lure vulnerable people away from the truth before they realize what has happened. We have to protect our minds and cultivate truth.  

·      The mind is a garden that could be cultivated to produce the harvest that we desire. 
·      The mind is a workshop where the important decisions of life and eternity are made. 
·      The mind is an armory where we forge weapons for our victory or our destruction. 
·      The mind is a battlefield where all the decisive battles of life are won or lost. 

The Bible warns us in Proverbs 23:7, "for as he thinks in his heart, so is he."  The mind alone is precious. But our minds become even more precious when we come to Christ.  Our minds then become the threshold for thinking and acting in the capacity as Christ did.  Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:16b, "We have the mind of Christ."

The renovation of our minds does not come easy. The enemy would rather us have a debased, unfruitful mind.  The mind is a battlefield.  The transformation and renewing of our minds begins when we begin to take control of our thoughts. 

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

This is the sieve of renewing the mind. If we capture every thought, and bring it to the feet of Christ, our minds will become renewed as we become like-minded with Christ.  If we will renew our minds in this fashion, think what it will do for our speech.  Gossiping and saying hurtful words do not come from a mind of Christ. Let's renew our minds in Christ Jesus and that will reframe the rest of our lives. 

…fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:2-5

Monday, May 29, 2023

Memorial Day

Monday, May 29, 2023 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance of those who have died in our nation's service.  It is a time to remember, reflect, and honor those brave men and women who have selflessly given their lives to keep us free.  Because of these brave heroes, through the grace of God, America became a great nation.  

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:12-14 (NIV)

Here, we find that our Lord recognized the tremendous sacrifice involved when a person is willing to give up their life for their friend.   He describes it as an act of “great love.”   Who better to be able to understand and define the very essence of self-sacrifice and love, but our Lord Himself?

Think about what Christ has done for His people.  He willingly humbled Himself and came to the earth, God in human flesh, giving up the glories of heaven to live among us. Then, during His life on earth, He set the ultimate example of service, teaching, feeding, praying for and healing those who were in need. Next, He was willing to be falsely accused, mocked, physically beaten, mistreated and convicted for a set of crimes that He did not commit. Finally, submitting to a horrible death of slow suffocation while hanging on a cross, all so that His people could receive forgiveness and deliverance from their sin and its results.  This is what the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ brought about for us.

Remember in the above verses Christ Himself said there was no greater love among man than to die for a friend?  How much greater is a love that would make Jesus, God the Son,  be willing to die for an enemy, one that wants nothing to do with Him and who rebels against Him at every turn?  It is described as “the love of God” that cannot be fully understood by man.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV) This is the ultimate example of love for another.

On this Memorial Day weekend, let us remember the brave soldiers who have so unselfishly given of themselves for us. Let’s not only appreciate their actions but then take steps to help these veterans and their families whenever and wherever we can.

But also this weekend, let us remember the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us so that we might be saved from our sins and live a life of victory through Him.  And then out of appreciation for His works, let us give ourselves for others, obeying the perfect law of Christ…that is to love one another.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

"One Thing I Do”

 Sunday, May 28, 2023

"One Thing I Do”

Philippians 3:8-16

In our lives, there are some things that God alone has to do in us, but there are other things we must do for ourselves. Those willing to exert concentrated effort in the pursuit of excellence in reaching our God-given tasks will have great success.


The need of change is evidenced by our sin

When you gave your life to Christ, He took it and now longs to make it what He desires it to be. 

I.      Forgetting What Lies Behind… v.13b

To avoid spiritual pride

·  The past is a rudder, not an anchor. It guides rather than holds back progress.

To avoid spiritual complacency

·  God is not so concerned with where you have been or what you have done as He is where you ARE, what you are DOING and where you are GOING. He is a God of the PRESENT.

Two major problems in Christian perseverance:

·  Discouragement leading to Defeat 
They are called "skeletons in your closet" because they are dead and need to be buried.

·  Overestimation leading to Complacency
It is hard to move forward when you feel like you have already arrived.

II.    Reaching Forward to What Lies Ahead… v.13c

To receive more from God than we've received.

To discover purpose and fullness in life.

·  Discipleship is aggressive, not passive.

III.   Pressing On Toward the Goal of Christ-likeness v.14

To live in continual victory.

To realize continued spiritual growth.

IV.  One Thing I Do 

These three steps are actually one act:  COMMITMENT.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Let’s Get Personal

Friday, May 26, 2023

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:26-27

Let’s Get Personal

We have learned that our religion must be practicing and proper.  Today we see that you cannot help but notice the emphasis on Personal Responsibility when reading from the book of James.  The use of singular pronouns in the text makes it clear that religion is not a corporate, but an individual responsibility.  Just from this first chapter in verses 23-27 we find in v.23 "anyone "he", "his"; in v.24 "himself", "he"; in v.25 "he", "this one"; in v.26 "anyone", "he", "his", "this one's; and in v.27 "oneself".

It is wonderful what our churches do for people in need.  The numbers of individuals and families who are blessed by the ministries of the church get to feel the heart of the congregation firsthand.  However, some might think that by giving on Sunday they fulfill their personal responsibility to the poor, the widows, and the orphans.  But “corporate” giving was never intended to replace our individual and personal responsibility.  

There is no amount of money that can replace individual hands and hearts in service.  There is nothing we can give that will bless our personal lives like volunteering our time, rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in a project, a person or a family in need.  God wants us to be personally involved.  He wants us to be inconvenienced.  He wants us to sacrifice.

Even as we cannot excuse ourselves from personal service by saying "I gave at the church," we cannot become satisfied with corporate worship and group Bible studies to meet our personal discipleship needs.  Corporate worship and Bible study will never replace personal discipleship in developing our relationship with God and strengthening our faith walk.

We are also individually responsible for our moral and spiritual life; to keep oneself unstained by the world.  Private prayer, meditation over scripture, and devotional time create a daily connection to the Spirit of Christ within us.  In the privacy of our prayer closets we confess our sin and claim His strength and righteousness.  The secret of religion is religion in secret; we can't pay someone else to do our praying, Bible study, worship (our religion) for us! 

The fact that you have chosen to go to the trouble of reading this devotional means that you have accepted some personal responsibility for your spiritual growth.  May others do the same and learn the value of a religion that is valuable to themselves and others. 


And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  Hebrews 13:16

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Hostility or Humility

Thursday, May 25, 2023 Submitted by Kay Crumley

 Hostility or Humility - James 4:1-10 

The book of James was written by James the brother of Jesus who was a leader in the early church and known for his wise advice. The book of James is a collection of instructions given to the Jewish believers who had been scattered around Palestine to escape persecution.   

Chapter 4 addresses the infighting of the congregation in those churches. There was a power struggle among the members for which James identifies the source as “your passions that wage war within you” in verse 1. The cause of the disagreements was internal as some were wanting what others had, greed, and were willing to murder, hate one another, to get what they wanted. He admonishes them that if they would only ask, in prayer, for what they wanted and with the right motives then God would answer and provide those desires. The purpose of prayer is to align our will with the will of God, Matthew 6:10. Without that alignment man’s covetousness or greed becomes idolatry. Praying for something with wrong motives, to spend it on selfish pleasures, is the reason the request isn’t granted. Since the church is the bride of Christ, when we are lusting for things not of God, we are an adulterous people, vs 4.  If we pursue worldly desires, we make ourselves the enemy of God just as a spouse who pursues others outside of the marriage relationship becomes the enemy.  The Holy Spirit who lives in the believer envies intensely, vs 5.  Exodus 34:14 tells us that the Lord is a jealous God. He wants our complete undivided devotion. If we place ourselves in opposition to God through our attachment to the world, He will resist us. He opposes the proud, those controlled by Satan. The solution is to humble ourselves to Him and the benefit is His abundant grace poured out onto us.   

Therefore, submit to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8

The solution is that we first submit, be subject to, surrender to, and draw near to God.  That means we recognize our weakness and surrender to Him, our final authority. Secondly, we must resist the devil.  There is only one way to resist him, draw near to God by knowing Him intimately.  We resist Satan by proclaiming the truth of the Word of God to him just as Jesus did in Matthew 4:1-11.  Thirdly, we must repent of our sin daily as we cleanse our hands and purify our hearts in prayer and commitment.  Admit our sin to Him with broken hearts and rid ourselves of pride acknowledging Him as our source and strength.  We see the reward, in verse 10, that those who humble themselves before Him, He will exalt.   

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

You are Responsible for You

 Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

You are Responsible for You 
It is a popular concept to blame someone or something else for our own poor behavior. We blame our parents, our spouse, our circumstances, or whatever we can to take the responsibility for our actions off of ourselves. As graduates who are leaving their homes and beginning new lives apart from their immediate families, it is important to realize that you are responsible for all your choices and to know they all have consequences. There is no such thing as irresponsibility. You are responsible for everything you think, say or do or fail to do. Whether you are person enough to accept it is another story.


God has a plan for your life and your first job before doing anything else is to discover it. No matter how much we like to think we are in control of our lives, we truly are not. The more we try to take that control of our lives away from God, the more trouble we find ourselves in. 

You can stand on a mountain and shout, “I am the master of my fate!  I am the 
captain of my soul!” and God will laugh at you. - Van Houser

You are not in full control of your life, you never were…and you never will be!

But responsibility is another matter. Nobody is responsible for your happiness and success but you and God. If you intentionally work at finding contentment in God, happiness will never be a problem. Happiness, or unhappiness, becomes a problem in our lives when we turn to other things to make us happy, or what we think makes us happy. Happiness is about our circumstances and our circumstances will sometimes be hard and maybe for a long season. But if we find true joy and contentment in God, difficult circumstances will not steal that away. Joy and contentment will be yours regardless of your family situation, your job situation, or your friends. The joy and contentment we find in God is the only thing that will never let us down. 

Nobody Owes You

It takes effort to work yourself into a life where you realize no one owes you anything. As kids we get a lot of special treatment but that goes away as an adult. We are all responsible for making our own way in this world, seeking the direction and guidance of God. Up until now you have had your life organized for you by school, church, little league, community, and family. Now it is your responsibility to organize your own life. 

Above All - Work Out Your Salvation!  

The most important and responsible thing you can do for your life is to make your relationship with God the number one priority in your life. It doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect, but a life built upon this foundation is what can sustain you through every trial. 

To work out our salvation means to pursue obedience in the process of sanctification. After we are saved, the process of sanctification begins, and we are never done with that process until we get to heaven. The fear part is that we have a healthy respect for the majesty and holiness of God and a healthy fear of offending Him through disobedience. Working out our salvation will bring the greatest joy, peace, and strength we need to get through this life. It is for His good pleasure, and it is His good pleasure to bring good things to us when it is according to His will and purpose for our lives. 

So go fly but be responsible. Think about your choices and what the consequences will be, before you act. Start building on the perfect foundation and walk with your Heavenly Father, leaning into Him for every decision and working out your salvation along the way.

Don’t Throw Your Faith Away

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them"; Ecclesiastes 12:1

Don’t Throw Your Faith Away

Many people today are caught up in what they call “deconstructing their faith.” Unfortunately what happens is that they don’t every “reconstruct their faith.” At an alarming rate people (mostly younger) are discounting the Word of God as truth. They are believing Tik Toc videos and social media influencers over the words of the Bible that they have heard their whole lives. It is okay to figure out why you believe what you believe, but go to the source of truth, not someone who wants to lure you away from the truth. 

It is completely okay to examine, study, and research what you hear, but don’t throw the Bible out because you think it is dated or offensive. If you think what the Bible says is offensive, you need to examine your heart. The words in the Bible are there for our guidance and direction in life. People who want to live in their sin may throw out the Bible because it says we are to honor God with our lives and live differently. We are to repent and confess and if we are in sin, we should feel bad about it. We should work it out with God and then move on. It doesn’t mean we live in shame. It means if we are Christians, we should have a problem with sin in our lives. We shouldn’t decide we won’t read the Bible or listen to anyone that preaches that the Bible says the sin in our lives is wrong. When others we love or care about have sin in their lives, we love them and pray for them. We can still love people and not agree with some of their choices. For others who may not be family, we can love them with the love of Christ. We can stand on our principles of faith without judging. Judgement is not our job. It is God's job. That does not mean we condone the sin. As Christians we should never ignore what the word of God says in order to keep from offending someone.

As the graduates of 2023 are embarking on a new frontier, respect and remember what you have been taught about God. It is not the time to leave Him behind. It is the time to begin to build your own life on the firm foundation of faith that was given to you. Life is a series of mountains and valleys and He will be with you in every valley and on every mountaintop. His Word is truth and stands the test of time. It is as relevant to your life today as it was the day it was written. Dr. Warren Wiersbe said, “Our faith is the foundation that we build everything else on.” Real faith is about trusting God and His promises. It is about relinquishing control over our own lives and seeking His guidance and direction in every move we make. It is sometimes about waiting and sometimes about moving forward. Your faith will always be tested in difficult circumstances so building your faith muscle in important.

If you are graduating from high school or college or if you are an older Christian just getting ready to face another day, remember the influences of those in your life that laid the foundation of Christ for you. Remember what they said, and most of all, seek the most important influence in your life, the founder and perfector of your faith. He’s where it all started, and He finished it for us on the cross by sacrificing His life so we could be forgiven and have eternal life. There is no social media influencer that will do that for you, nor can they guarantee your place in heaven. Only Jesus can do that for you. He has the power of life and death, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive when we become Christians, we have it also.   


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2


Monday, May 22, 2023

Two Things You Need to Know about Change

  Monday, May 22, 2023

Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, Lord, save us! We're going to drown! He replied, You of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him! Matthew 8:24-27

Lots of kids are walking across stages in the next couple of weeks and launching out into the world to begin their journey. There are so many important things they need to know, and we feel like we need to prepare them for all of them before they leave, which is an impossible task. One important things they need to know – something we have all become way too familiar with – is that change is constant in life.  When it starts, often one change leads to another. We must learn to accept change and find peace in our one true constant - Jesus Christ. 

There are two very important things you need to know about change: 

Change will always be a part of life. Don’t get too comfortable, because as soon as you do, things will get shaken up. Change is a part of life; you can count on that. Where there is life, there is change.  Growing requires change.   

Sometimes in life things seem to be going very well, and then out of nowhere, a big surprise comes. Perhaps a close friend or a family member is suddenly killed or diagnosed with a life changing illness.  Perhaps, after years of service your job is downsized, and you are laid off. No matter what your situation may be, sooner or later major life changes come.  These sorts of things happen to people every single day.  What's worse, many time those changes come suddenly and without warning… causing us to do some real soul searching.  The question becomes, how are we to react when change hits us?

Adapt and be open to what God is teaching you. Don’t run.  God sometimes allows tough situations to happen to us not because He is trying to make our lives difficult, but simply because He knows that this world is only a temporary assignment for us.  He does not want us to love the world too much, because our ultimate destination is a place far better. Further, God desires for us to have character, rather than comfort in our lives.  We like comfort and change forces us outside our comfort zone. Sometimes changes happen in order to develop us into the person He wants us to be and prepare us for a greater challenge or opportunity in the future. God could have left David as a simple Shepherd, but instead he called him to fight a giant and become a king.  God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and sometimes change has to come so that He can accomplish His plans through us.  

So don't be surprised that God sometimes calls us into uncharted waters. Change is scary. Change is inevitable. But quite often God fulfills his plans for us as we place our trust in the Him even through difficult times. Focus on Him and remember today that His plans are good, and we can trust Him to lead us and walk with us through every change. Change is the only constant in life, but Jesus Christ, His love for you and His truth are constant for all eternity.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Ready…Set…GO! Graduate Sunday 2023

Ready…Set…GO!  Graduate Sunday 2023

Hebrews 12:1-2

With each level of graduation, we gain more privileges and possibilities along with more responsibility.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

The natural curiosity we have is the catalyst for learning and growth.

I.    Recognize the Importance of Today  v.1a

LUCK = When preparation meets opportunity

II.  Recall the Influences from Yesterdays  v.1b

Be careful! Don’t throw practical faith under the bus!

Faith is not an assent of the intellect to revealed truth; it is the practical submission to the guidance and control of truth!

III. Deal with Your Past v.1c

Beginning your legacy out of resentment or bitterness toward your parents, teachers or others is a recipe for disaster.

You can’t stop me!” are the four most dangerous words in the world.

We need to be aware of the influences of our parents, but we do not have to be mastered by them.

IV.  Accept Responsibility for Your Life v.1d

God has a plan for your life and your first job before doing anything else is to discover it.

V.  Focus on Your Future  v.2

Those who fail often live lives of avoidance instead of achievement.

Formula for Failure

·  Live in fear of failing.

·  Live blaming others for your problems.

·  Live without setting a goal in any area of your life.
A goal in your head is a dream for tomorrow. A goal on paper is a plan for today.

Simple Steps to a Better Life

·  Quit feeling sorry for yourself.

·  Get a written, specific goal for your life.

God doesn't give us dreams to taunt us.

·  List & accept your personal liabilities.

·  List & accept your personal assets.   

We discover our self-worth in our being and then express it in our doing.  

·  Plan to have a good day every day.

·  Be careful who you run with.

Life is relationships! – If you can’t handle relationships, you can’t handle life.

·  Recognize your responsibilities...Somebody needs you!

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