The 2nd Thought

Many times, there is not much we can do to stop the 1st thought that enters our minds.  It could be a “fiery dart.” It might be a tempting thought at the sight of a voluptuous lady, the first look at a car that you have been wanting or a home that is beyond your financial means, a quick look at a delectable piece of chocolate, or a view of an outfit that you would “die” for.  It may be an anxious thought that leads to fear, uncertainty, or doubt. An initial thought could lead to the potential to manipulate or control.  The 1st thought happens without the will being engaged. 

The will is engaged with the 2nd thought giving us the opportunity to choose.  We deliberately must obey God.  James 4:7 declares for us to “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  

James describes the slippery slope of not choosing Christ with our 2nd thought. “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).  If we have not intentionally shutdown the “cruise control” or “auto-pilot” of the unhealthy, lustful neural paths of our unconscious mind, the 2nd thought will automatically follow the will of the flesh.  Before we know it, we are practicing ungodliness and fellowship with the Lord broken. 

Let me assure you, the devil is the master of illusion and deceitfulness.  He skillfully enjoys guiding us down the highway of darkness.  “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Paul the Apostle declares to each Christ-follower,  “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).  God wants the Christian to be discerning…to recognize and determine what is right or wrong.  Once determined, they choose “what is best and pure.”  Discerning the Godly 2nd thought leads to “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus.”   

The Psalmist declares to us in 25:12, “Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.”

The 2nd thought determines what you choose.  What you choose determines who you are. 

It’s Suppertime

My wife and I have spent twenty years working with married couples.  We will tell you there is one very key element in a relationship that determines whether your relationship is vitalized or devitalized.  That element is safe communication.  When each partner feels safe in a relationship, no matter what comes up this couple can talk through it and end up in a healthy spot.  It may be tough and there may be tears, but they can stay at it until they are at a solid place. 

The healthy, mature Christian is the one who can engage God and talk things through with Him until the conversation ends in a sound spot. 

Let me assure you that God desires to spend time with us.  Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will sup (or dine) with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).  Jesus stands at the door of our hearts with a great desire to talk with each of us.  Once open, Jesus says, “I come into him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  “Suppertime” or “dinner time” is one of the most intimate, comfortable, disarming safe places to talk.  Jesus wants to set up a dinner table in our hearts and sup with us.

How often does Jesus want to talk to us?He tells us to “pray (talk to me) without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  In Matthew 7:7&8, the original Greek text reads like this, “Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.”  Jesus says for us to keep on asking and seeking, and we will find.  Continue to knock and it will be opened.  In other words, we will get to know Jesus intimately.  We will discover that He is more than willing to “be opened to” us and share His heart with us, “finding” what’s dear to Him.  We will be surprised what He is willing to show and give us. 

What does He want to talk about?  Ephesians 6:18 tells us 18 With all prayer and petition pray with specific requests at all times on every occasion and in every season” (Amplified Bible).  He wants us to talk about everything and anything on our hearts and His heart “with specific requests at all times, on every occasion, and in every season.” 

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (1 Corinthians 1:9).  We are called to talk to Jesus continually.  He’s willing.  Time for each of us to open the door and keep it open.  It’s suppertime.

Praying for Missionaries

Today I would like to dedicate this Journey to Missionaries. They are like Paul, who are sent out to witness to other lands. Not everyone has the calling to be a Missionary, and not every person has the personality to be one, but thanks be to God, that there continues to be those who answer the calling written on their hearts, many from a very young age, to go to certain groups or places in this world for the purpose of being a witness for Christ. Some are sent to places that seem pretty safe, and others are sent to places that their very lives are threatened, or imprisonment waits for them. But the call of the Lord is stronger than the fear of what could possibly happen to them. You and I have an opportunity to be a part of these Missionaries lives, through either direct giving, or the participation of your church in the tithes you give, that are sent to those who do this work. You also participate with them by the prayers you send to heaven for them and those they minister to. What caught my heart to these this morningwas the start of Philippians, in which Paul, who obviously is a Missionary, and now in prison, writes from this prison to those who help him with their financial help, and with their prayers. Here is what the Missionary thinks toward those who participate: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel.” Philippians 1:3-7 These brave souls, called by God, through Christ our Lord, pray for you also, I have received encouragement many times from the very missionaries we are and should be praying for, saying that they are praying for us, and for me. It would seem to me that they have their hands full with where they are, and what they are doing, but they still have time to pray for us back home, I wonder how often we pray for them? Do you know who your Missionaries are? Do you remember them in prayer? Pastor Andy

Become an Epaphras

It is a shame that in our world of sports, our heroes are the men and women who have great stats and electric highlights, i.e. whether it is yardage gained, passes caught, TD’s thrown, points scored, block shots, longest and number of HR’s, super human dunks, one hand unbelievable receptions, broken tackles, etc.  We love human highlights on fields and courts.  However, many times, these players are not the most respected in the locker rooms.  It’s the ones who play team ball, great students of the game, work their tails off in practice, can be counted on to do everything right and stay in tune with the other players always ready to support.  Often, players are kept around; because, they are “great in the locker room.”  It is these players who often end up great coaches.

In scripture, there is a guy who reminds me of the solid players and great teammates who get little notoriety.  His name is Epaphras who is recorded in scripture only three times.  Let’s take a look at this guy and how his life impacts us today.

Paul the Apostle records his impact on the first century church in Colossians 1:7, You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.  Reading this verse, you wonder what the Colossians “learned from Epaphras.”  You discover in verses 3-6 that he taught them:

  1. “faith in Christ Jesus.”
  2. “love for all God’s people,” not just the ones we choose to love but for ALL God’s people
  3. the faith and love “that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel.” In these days of pandemic, we desperately need to look for faith and love “that spring from the hope”
    1. stored up for you in heaven”
    2. “heard in the true message of the gospel”
    3. “truly understood (because of) God’s grace.”

We can’t base our hope on the multiple sources of today’s news and keeping up with the national, statewide and local COVID 19 death count or the numbers of us infected with the disease.  Base it on what Epaphras taught the Colossians.

Paul again recorded the testimony of Ephphras in Colossians 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”  Paul called Epaphras a “servant of Christ Jesus (who) is always wrestling in prayer” of others.  Do we wrestle in prayer for others?  We have tendency to worry, gripe and judge.  Let’s learn how to “wrestle in prayer.”  Pam and I currently are learning to “wrestle in prayer” for one of our grandchildren who is struggling.  We are not robots.  Both of us are ultra-concerned and even frightened; however, as Epaphras, we are learning to “wrestle in prayer”  on behalf of our grandchild with the “hope” and knowledge that God is listening.

The third record of Epaphras is in Philemon 1:23, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.”  Epaphras had great respect of the other Christians in that day especially Paul.  He sacrificed for Jesus to the point of imprisonment. 

We need to heed the testimony of this little-known Christian.  He was not the superstar who received tons of press and comments in history; however, Paul and others knew and respected this man of God.  I pray each of us will ask God to make us like Epaphras.

The Explosive Power of God

The Greek word for “power” in the New Testament is “dumanis” which literally means dynamite.  There is a sense of explosive power in the word translated “power” in the English language.  We need to grasp this. One of the meanings of “explode” in Webster’s Dictionary is to undergo a rapid chemical or nuclear reaction with the production of noise, heat, and violent expansion of gases.”  What if we could comprehend the magnitude of the “reaction” in the spiritual world from Christ filled dumanis produced by fervent prayer, meditation on God’s word, transparency to others, confession of sin or witnessing to the lost or hurting?  Christ’s power (dumanis) changes things. 

Because of the sense of explosive power in the word dunamis, the reaction to His power often produces a miracle (spiritually, mentally, emotionally and/or physically).  An amazing story is recorded in Mark 5.  Jesus was headed to heal the young daughter of Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, and a large crowd surrounded Him along the way. In the crowd was a lady who had a bleeding issue for 12 years, and her physical condition continued to deteriorate. She reached out and touched the cloak of Jesus and was immediately healed.  The reaction to Jesus’ explosive power was healing.  Then, Jesus did something that was amazing.  In the midst of the suffocating crowd, He wanted to know the one person who had touched Him with faith and was healed. 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  Never think that you are lost in a crowd.  Recognize connection is always available with Jesus by faith.  He will single you out and minister to you with dumanis much as He did to the lady in Mark 5Her faith allowed Jesus to act with grace and power.  There was a response to her faith and then a reaction from His power.

In Mark 6, the opposite happened in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.  Verses 4&5 declares, “Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” He was too familiar to His hometown.  The Nazarites had great difficulty believing Jesus was the Son of God with divine dumanis.  “1 Jesus went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”  Even though many heard Him preach and were amazed knowing He had performed “remarkable miracles,” yet, they did not believe.  It is not difficult to imagine what they were saying, “How can He perform miracles and have the audacity to call Himself God’s son.  His grew up here. We know His Mom, brothers and sisters, and He was a carpenter who worked in many of our homes.”  Jesus was so familiar to them, and He was not able to perform miracles.

Let me ask you a question.  Are we too familiar with Jesus?  Some of us have been believers for a long time. We profess Him as Lord and Savior, but are we currently truly alive in Christ and expecting dumanis to occur regularly as we walk out our lives?  Some of us haven’t seen Jesus’ explosive power in our midst before or in a long time and don’t expect it.  We are numb to the magnitude of His power.  God is so much bigger than we can imagine.  You cannot out pray the magnitude of God. It is time to stop acting like a Nazarite and truly by faith “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7) living is His presence and experiencing His mighty, explosive power.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR ALL THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE DIED DEFENDING THE USA AND PRAY FOR THE FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND ESPECIALLY THEIR SPOUSES, CHILDREN, PARENTS AND SIBLINGS.  I CANNOT IMAGINE YOUR GRIEF.

God’s “Dunamis” Is Amazing

The prevailing language at the time of Christ was Greek, the language of the New Testament.  Many times, dynamics are lost in the translation to English.  An example of this is the word “power.”  Dunamis is the Greek word for power used 120 times in the New Testament.  This word can be translated “dynamic” but by far, the majority of the time, it is accurately translated “dynamite.”  My objective in this blog is to stimulate us.  Because of the cares of the world, the earthly crap our minds focus on every day, the devious and selfish nature of our world and the speed of today’s life, we have diluted the power or the “dynamite” of God.  I want to share some verses with you that will hopefully explode within us to wake us up to his magnificent power to change us and transform our minds and lives. 

2 Timothy 1:7 is an electric verse, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (or fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  “Power” is the translation of dunamis or dynamite.  Rather than thinking about power in an abstract way, let’s start thinking of His power in the active, energetic, explosive reality of dynamite.  In this verse, Paul says for us to dynamite the fears that can dominate our lives and paralyze our minds.  For all of the neural networks in our minds that neutralize our effectiveness, start meditating on His word which creates new, healthy, powerful pathways in our minds.  Visualize negative, sinful thought patterns being blown up by His dunamis.

Amazingly, God’s power is available to Christ-followers.  Jesus promises His disciples:

  • “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Read the book of Acts and observe Christians living out this dunamis in their lives. 
  • “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  You may be thinking that you are just too weak to experience His power.  Yet, God states dunamis ismade perfect in your weakness.  An analogy is the conductivity abilities in steel vs. copper.  Electricity experiences resistance in the strength of steel; however, electricity is “perfected” in the weakness of copper.  The weaker the metal is, the more powerful the electricity when conducted.  Paul the Apostle later in this verse made an unbelievable proclamation, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

Why does Paul say this?  Because he knows that in our weaknesses, we need help and more willing to submit our lives totally to Him allowing the Holy Spirt to perfect Jesus in our lives.

  • Paul affirms the above in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”   God calls us simple, inexpensive “jars of clay” and makes something beautiful out of us through His dumanis.

It is essential that we comprehend dumanis, God’s dynamite power.  Then, we must recognize that it is not our strength but our weakness that allows God to show and perfect His active, energetic power in us and expresses it through us to others.

Whose We Are

Some people work for masters who are tyrants, and others work for masters who are benevolent. Some never see their masters (bosses), while others work right beside them. Some don’t like who they work for, and some love their jobs, and would never think of working for anyone else. All different, yet the bible tells us that no matter what circumstance we are in regarding our earthly masters, we are to work for them with fear and trembling, and honor them, because it is not really them we should be working for, but the Lord.  Let’s see how it is written: ” Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.” Ephesians 6:5-9   I have worked for bosses who kept threatening their employees with being fired if they didn’t produce at a certain level. With that kind of attitude, it’s no wonder that some places have trouble keeping workers.  The Lord wants us to work diligently as to Him. If we are an employee, we need to give it our all, with an attitude that we don’t necessarily work for the human master, but we belong to Jesus, and He is the One directing us in our work attitude. If we are an employer, we should treat those we hire as children of God, laying out the framework of what needs to be done, but then giving them coaching. While it is true there are some who will abuse this on both sides of the employment contract, I’m talking to and about Christians. We are not to be like the world. We are to be different. If we are treated unkindly, we respond with kindness. If we are threatened, we are to be humble in heart and trust the Lord that He will provide. If we are treating others unkindly, how can a business survive?  How can employee devotion continue with one that treats their charges unkindly.  I think, too often, we try to separate our worldly work program from our spiritual life. But I need to remind all of us who we are believers, do not take a separate track from living life while here on earth.  While it’s true we live as if we are pilgrims, sojourners, temporary residents, we should never forget WHO we are … or WHOSE we are!