Eliminating Ungodly Relationships and Conversations

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Eliminating Ungodly Relationships and Conversations

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. –2 Timothy 2:16 NIV

A few days ago, I said good afternoon to my neighbor with the intention of not having a lengthy conversation. Yet, the question, “Do you have sugar ants in your apartment?” resulted in listening to mindless chatter [not gossip] which included him saying a few careless words of profanity. When I reached the point of no more, I ended it pleasantly with “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

The comparison of a child’s brain to a sponge within the first six years of life substantiates the reason a young child who hears profanity will repeat it again and again. Unless adults have a cognitive impairment, our brains also process and retain the ungodly conversations we listen to.

Yes, later, my mind kept playing back the conversation. As I reflected on my lifestyle, I asked myself when is the last time I listened to a conversation with profanity. I prayed for forgiveness and began to listen to praise and worship music. Yet, it took a couple of days for my brain to forget the conversation.

The Deception of the Familiar

Satan uses the noise of social media, current news, and familiar people to flood our minds with sinful distractions. Watching the worldly behaviors of high-profile individuals whether in fashion, sports, or entertainment appears to be exciting but is detrimental. Always keeping current with the negativity of daily news will push one into thinking that God is not in control of this earth. Our selection of streaming and Cablevision programs indicates our preferences for the information we feed our souls. 

Feeding our senses with pleasure fulfills our carnal desires. Our thoughts and habits change as we lose the desire to pray, study the Bible, and live righteously.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Many Christians feel they are in a dilemma when they accept Jesus as their Savior. How do we interact with unbelievers, especially when they are friends or family members? Are we supposed to completely cut them off? Do they respect and honor God? Our spiritual conversion requires us to witness [with courage] that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. The truth must be combined with love. Our declaration begins with a simple explanation to our friends and family, “I made the decision to serve God and I can no longer talk about or do the things that I used to do.”

Warning: Serving God can lead to a lonely walk in life. As time passes, you may notice a decline in their phone calls and invitations for you to attend get-togethers. It isn’t easy to take up our cross and follow Christ. Still, we must remain steadfast in declining conversations and invites that compromise our relationship with Jesus.

They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:18-19)

In 2017, I received a call from my uncle who was celebrating his birthday. “Hi niece, some friends are giving me a birthday party Friday night at a place downtown. I know that you are Christian, but there are some tables that are not near the liquor.” I did not get offended. I laughed and responded, Yes, uncle, I am a Christian, thank you for the invite, but I cannot come, have a great time. The irony of the call, a few days before his bar party, my uncle along with most of my cousins, and I met at a restaurant to celebrate his birthday.

Satan will use whoever he has to to make us fall. Our temptations come from those who we are close to and from strangers.  Do not become upset with the person, this is spiritual warfare that the Apostle Paul tells us to be girded up for in Ephesians chapter 6. The struggle is real, but victory is sure when our relationship with Christ is number one in our lives.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].’” (Matthew 16:24, Amplified)

There is no middle ground or gray area in serving God. To fulfill our divine purpose, we will have to give up familiar people, places, and things that do not bring honor and glory to God. Stay prayerful and be led by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: God, we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the ungodly habits that are keeping us from living righteously. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus, the Sin Bearing Messiah

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Jesus, the Sin Bearing Messiah

Do you remember whistling teapots? When the pressure from the boiling water reached a certain point, the teapot started whistling. But the noise did not stop immediately even though the pot was removed from the burner. As the pressure decreased the sound of the whistle slowly ceased. Yet, the water was still hot.

Two days ago, the United Nations Secretary-General issued this statement, “We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, adding that “our world is in peril — and paralyzed.” AP News

On September 14th, the headlines read, “The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, his most optimistic outlook yet on the years-long health crisis which has killed over six million people.” Reuters.com

On September 20th, Fortune Well published a COVID update, “Just in time for fall, there’s a brand-new COVID variant making headway in the U.S.”

The majority’s reaction to our world predicament is to keep moving forward with their plans. Most people are sick and tired of hearing that things are worsening. Many have joined the movement of relocating to a country dwelling, growing a garden large enough to be self-sustaining, and homeschooling their children. Although there is nothing wrong with improving the quality of one’s life, we cannot stop the rapid progression from living in the last days to reaching the end of time.

We have reached the boiling point and the burner is at a high temperature. According to the Scriptures, our high alert of a critical status will worsen. “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

Before God created the earth, He knew that Adam and Eve would disobey and sin. The Plan of Salvation that mandated the death of Jesus was made before God said, “… ‘Let there be light…” (Genesis 1:3). Jesus committed to becoming our sacrificial Lamb so we may have the opportunity for eternal life.

The prophet Isaiah received God’s message that Jesus was our sin-bearing Messiah. “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3). Yes, Jesus was rejected by the majority of those He came to seek, serve, and save. And sadly, many present-day believers have also rejected Christ through the disobedience of self-gratifying pursuits.

Every Christian believer is aware of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet, due to the delay of Jesus’ Second Coming, many have grown comfortable living in their temporary earthly home. We have become paralyzed—we do not hear the whistling of this warning “these are the last days of earth’s history, Jesus is coming soon.”

Thankfully, God always has a remnant of people who are diligently seeking and serving Him. In Romans chapter 11, the Apostle Paul tells of the conversation between God and the prophet Elijah when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life?’ But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’” (verses 3 and 4).

“So too at the present time, there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5). Jesus did not die in vain! The Apostle John saw a great multitude, which no man could number who received their reward of eternal life. We must wake up to recognize the warnings that God is sending. Like David, we should pray daily for God to search our hearts for any wickedness and repent. Ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and continue to witness to others that Jesus is our Savior, Deliverer, and Heavenly Intercessor.

Prayer: God, we pray that You would search our hearts and reveal the sins that would keep us from receiving our reward of eternal life. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus, Amen.

The Gift of His Peace

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—The Gift of His Peace

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Although our world is in chaos, Jesus has promised to give the righteous His peace. Jesus’ peace gives us a deep inner calm and confidence that cannot be shaken by life’s changes and challenges.

There is an opposing worldview that spiritual peace only comes from Jesus. Based on success and wealth, they assert, “I have peace.” What is your source of peace? Self-confidence, knowledge, a stable career, financial stability, or a great marriage? Would you still have peace if your circumstances changed and you faced the loss of your career, money, or marriage? The present status of a good life could easily slip away and your conception of peace would be replaced with disbelief, sorrow, and maybe anger.

For every promise of God, Satan attempts to produce a counterfeit. Peace is not a willful state of mind. Nor is peace achieved by moving to a rustic location that provides solitude—that is defined as a peaceful environment. We cannot download peace from an app. Nor do we gain peace from transcendental meditation, or listening to serene music. The temporary state of peace quickly vanishes when the hypnotic words or music are turned off.

Wait! Are you saying Christians who have Jesus’ peace would have peace despite severe loss? Yes! We are not superhumans. By putting God first, we have a dependable relationship with Jesus who sustains us every day. Jesus tells us the importance of staying connected to Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Jesus Christ is the reason we never lose our peace. Faith is the catalyst that allows us to receive and keep our gift of peace under all circumstances. When faced with life-altering situations, we experience sorrow, but we do not despair and lose our faith or hope in Jesus. With diligent prayer and study of the Scriptures, anger, distrust, or hopelessness can never replace our gift of true peace.

Our peace remains consistent because we have a relationship with the Giver of all good gifts. Jesus’ peace prevents our hearts from becoming overwhelmed with the circumstances we face. Even in suffering our faith is steadfast because we believe in God’s promises. “…I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Through trials and sorrows, Jesus promised to provide us with spiritual strength and give us peace. The same promise that the apostle Paul received also applies to us, “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Our love for Jesus makes the difference. We surrender our hearts fully to Him. Yes, Jesus is our Father and Friend. Trusting in the supernatural power of God keeps us connected to Jesus, the Source of peace.

Jesus has promised to heal, deliver, and give us restoration. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (John 15:5). And we know that our Savior will never fail us!

Prayer: Jesus, we admit that we are not in a relationship with You. Today, we surrender our hearts and lives because we love You. We pray for the gift of your peace and ask for strength in our daily lives. Thank You for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in Your name. Amen.

Remaining a Faithful Servant

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Remaining a Faithful Servant

“And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28

The topic of Post-modern Christianity has gained a lot of focus among pastors, theologians, and older Christians. Many new issues have arisen in today’s churches, emotional insecurities, depression, anxiety, the failure to study the Bible, embracing prosperity messages, and not giving tithe and offerings. Yet, the problems among today’s believers are much deeper than the obvious.

Imagine speaking with a couple of new believers who tell you that they feel alone and confused since becoming Christians. You listen attentively, repeat a couple of encouraging scriptures [God’s promises] and they give you a blank stare. “Do you study the Bible?” They hesitate and answer, “Not really.”

I watched a testimonial of a woman, in her mid-forties who heard about Christ on social media. She decided to give her heart to Jesus, purchased a Bible, and began looking for a church home. As she began researching the various denominations, she narrowed her focus to three. The church she chose was not Bible-based, but it fit her lifestyle.

Trending among Christians is a sense of entitlement. We desire convenience and fast service which has led to the post-modern term–the microwave society. Family dinners are eaten at restaurants or ordered online for delivery. The preference to stay home and watch virtual services has caused a downward spiral in family bonding and in-person church attendance. After all, it fits into our schedule.

Pastors have shortened their regular church services to one hour to resolve the complaint of “The church service is just too long.” Sacrificial giving of our time and effort is an inconvenience, even for God.

Another individual shared proof of satisfying one’s desires over serving God. “In the past ten years, all of my friends have gone astray. They no longer serve God. They chased success, and relationships, or chose other worldly options that provided happiness.”

Current studies by Reach Right Focus reveal that in-person attendance is only 36-60% of what it was pre-COVID. Church attendance has decreased because individuals have lost their interest in serving God.

Spiritual Warfare: The strategist’s solution is to use engagement techniques to bring new members into the churches. Too much emphasis is placed on making one feel good. One strategy is not to overwhelm the members with too many Scriptures. Believe it or not, church leaders have responded by changing their regular service to one or two hours of singing, which is designed to produce happiness.

Sadly, these are the members who become despondent when faced with trials. Without spiritual food from the Word of God and fervent prayer, we cannot have a steadfast relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowledge of God’s promises along with receiving the power of the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to overcome our hardships.

When we love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, no one has to convince us to serve Him. True worship is an outward reflection of a steadfast relationship with Jesus Christ. Serving God is probably the most challenging thing a Christian will ever do. Discipleship is a life of humility, surrender, and obedience. Through prayer and studying the Bible, we allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts from satisfying our desires to becoming humble servants.

Jesus’ disciples also had many issues, including hearts overcome by pride. Their antagonism toward one another was fueled by the desire to be the greatest. At the Last Supper, it was Jesus [the Son of God] who washed His disciple’s feet. Humility is not a character trait we are born with. Our carnal nature opposes the meek and lowly traits of servitude. Yet, becoming a servant is discipleship.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:14-17).

Prayer: God, we pray for the many individuals who have given up and lost their way that they will return to their first love, Jesus Christ. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ worthy name, Amen.